WHISTLER, British Columbia - Bill Demong has put Vermontville, N.Y., on the map at an international level.
With his victory in the individual large hill cross country event Feb. 25, Demong became the first American to claim Olympic gold in Nordic Combined, a sport that combines ski jumping with cross-country skiing.
"It definitely has not sunk in," said Demong the day after the event, "but every hour or so, I get two seconds of a glimpse at that reality and it gives me chills."
After his performance in the jumping portion landed him in sixth place, Demong sailed through the 10 km ski course with a total time of 25 minutes, 32.9 seconds; four seconds ahead of fellow American Johnny Spillane, who took silver.
Though it was the first Olympic gold for the United States in Nordic Combined, Demong was hardly a longshot to win the event. Just last year, Demong won gold in large hill at the FIS World Championships, capping off a season where he finished third in the World Cup standings.
"Bill has worked very hard for many years, said Ted Blazer, President and CEO of New York State's Olympic Regional Development Authority. "His impressive performances at multiple Olympics and World Championships are now punctuated with this medal."
Demong, 29, was born and raised in the greater Saranac Lake area and attended Saranac Lake Central School before transitioning to National Sports Academy in Lake Placid. He spent many years participating in local New York Ski Education Foundation programs with the likes of Olympic Biathlon athletes Tim Burke and Lowell Bailey. He will no doubt receive a triumphant welcome when he returns to his hometown. "What Billy did last night was short of remarkable," said Town of Franklin Supervisor Arthur P. Willman Jr. Feb. 26. "His performance during these Games, along with his teammates, can only be described as inspirational."
"I can think of no other person more deserving than Billy," Willman added. "Speaking for everyone in Vermontville, we are all proud and we all feel somehow connected to his accomplishments."
In addition to gold, Demong anchored a silver medal-winning performance by U.S. Nordic Combined in the 4-by-5 km team relay Feb. 23. The foursome included Demong, Brett Camerota, Todd Lodwick, and Spillane, who added another silver medal in the normal hill cross country event Feb. 14, the first ever by an American in Nordic Combined.
Demong's accomplishments exemplified a banner year for the United States, which set a record for most medals ever won by a single country at any Winter Olympics with 37. Thus, it was only natural that he be chosen to bear his country's flag at the closing ceremony Feb. 28 in Vancouver.
"Being chosen as flag bearer is a phenomenal honor," Demong said. "It could have been any one of my teammates, and it is meaningful that our peers are taking notice of what we've achieved."