Bill’s back: Demong leading USA Nordic
Steamboat Springs — The U.S. Nordic Combined Team’s roller ski time trial — along Steamboat Boulevard to Fish Creek Falls road, then up to the falls’ parking lot — isn’t an official part of the team’s Fourth of July activities in Steamboat Springs, but it’s still very much a tradition and a grueling one, in the eyes of Bill Demong.
“This is a really hard time trial, because not only is it kind of a hill climb, there are these rolling sections,” said Demong, a longtime member of the U.S. Ski Team, a world champion and an Olympic gold medalist.
“There’s no recovery if you’re doing it right,” he said. “As soon as you get over the top of a hill, you’re switching techniques and pushing hard.”
Catching his breath after the 5-mile skate Saturday, Demong relished the pain. It had been awhile. He retired from competition following the 2015 season, but after a brief try at life partially away from Nordic combined, he’s back. He’s aiming to return to competition, but serving as executive director for USA Nordic, the overseeing organization for Nordic combined and ski jumping in the United States.
Saturday, he got a good look at the athletes in the Nordic combined pipeline, up close and personal as he skated alongside them in the annual Fish Creek time trial.
“I went my speed,” he said, chuckling, “which is slowing down. I did get a chance to float back through the group — not by choice — and watch all the guys come by, and it was awesome to see how many big, strong, young guys we have coming up.”
From the Lake Placid, New York area, Demong spent years training in Steamboat before moving to Park City to continue working with the U.S. Ski Team.
As an athlete, Demong’s legacy in American Nordic combined is unmatched. He finished his career with 22 World Cup podiums and competed at five different Winter Olympics. He won four World Championship medals — two bronze, a silver and a gold — and two Olympic medals — silver in a team relay and gold in an individual event, all in 2010.
Late in his career Demong began contributing more than results.
He had tentative plans to retire following the 2014 Winter Olympics but put them on hold for a year after the United States Ski and Snowboard Association cut a majority of the funding for the country’s Nordic combined programming. Demong’s status as the only American to have an Olympic gold medal in the event helped him lead the charge in raising funds for the team.
He took an active role in helping define what was next for the squad and helped it join with USA Nordic, initially an organization formed to help the ski jumping team cope with a similar cut in funding.
He finally retired after the 2015 season and took a job in marketing for Reynolds Cycling in nearby Sandy, Utah. He couldn’t get his sport out of his blood, however, and this spring, he signed on as executive director for USA Nordic, stepping in after longtime director Signe Jordet stepped down.
“The guys in the bike industry love bikes. They love bikes for all the details that maybe a guy who loves to race or ride bikes wouldn’t notice or would take for granted,” Demong said. “Their knowledge and passion is similar to my knowledge and passion for this job. I realized this is what my passion is, and I wanted to get back in a position to most benefit the community and the organization.”
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