Olympian steps out of retirement for one more competition | SteamboatToday.com

Olympian steps out of retirement for one more competition

Olympic gold medalist Billy Demong briefly paused his retirement to compete in a Nordic combined event Saturday and Sunday. (Photo by Shelby Reardon)

Let there be no confusion, Nordic combined Olympic gold medalist Billy Demong isn’t returning to the World Cup circuit or the U.S. National Team. However, he did compete in a Nordic combined competition in Steamboat Springs over the Fourth of July weekend.

It all started with a friendly wager.

It’s rumored that U.S. Ski Team Special Jumper Casey Larson earned a better jump than Demong one day at nationals 10 years ago near Chicago. Ever since, Larson has talked some smack and wanted to go head to head with the Olympian.

Larson is a special jumper, which means he only competes in ski jumping and hasn’t competed in a Nordic or cross-country ski race in years. Meanwhile, Demong has only jumped about three times since retiring in 2015.

The Fourth of July competition was the perfect place for the two to showdown. They jumped Saturday and concluded the competition with a 3-kilometer race down Yampa Street ahead of the parade Sunday morning.

“He actually crushed me in jumping,” Demong said. “I started a minute behind him in a 3K race that takes eight minutes and made up 59.5 seconds. I could have put a hole in his back with my pole, but I couldn’t pass him.”

Now, Larson gets to choose a costume for Demong to wear for a day during the national championships. It must be PG-13 and must be less than $100.

“For the most part, I don’t talk crap about things I can’t back up,” Larson said. “I’m proud of myself for eking him out. I thought I was going to jump better, so I was really scared about how little time I had ahead of him but made it work.”

Casey Larson, a special jumper, competed in his first Nordic race in a while during the Jumpin' and Jammin' event at Howelsen Hill on Sunday. (Photo by Shelby Reardon)

At Jumpin’ and Jammin’, the elimination-style jumping competition Sunday afternoon, Demong reverted back to a life of retirement, letting the current stars of the sport show off.

The event began with 48 contestants and eliminated 16 to get down to 32, then halved the competition each round until four men were left standing: Larson, Evan Nichols of New Hampshire, Steamboat’s own Grant Andrews and Olympian Jasper Good. The four had been leading the pack all day, and the crowd at the base of Howelsen Hill expected a tight final round of ski jumping.

The U.S. National Team members did not disappoint.

Andrews laid down a huge jump, pumping his fists and feeling confident in his chances. Good flew a whole meter farther, earning the longest jump of the day of 76.5 meters.

Every time he lowered the bar and got into position at the top of the inrun, the crowd cheered, “Jasper, Jasper, Jasper.” Good competed this winter in Europe, but there weren’t crowds.

“It was super fun having that atmosphere again,” he said. “We’re used to that in international competitions, and we had none of that this year. For that to come back a little bit, especially in the U.S., is cool.”

That left just Larson.

“Being the last guy every time, hearing, ‘Jasper, Jasper,’ was the most intimidating thing,” Larson said.

Larson’s jump looked great from start to finish, and Good got a little nervous watching the Norge Ski Club member fly.

“I was like, ‘Oh, Casey’s high,’” Good said.

It took the judges a few minutes to relay Larson’s distance: 76 meters, good enough for second. Good was the victor in both the Jumpin’ and Jammin’ and Saturday and Sunday’s competition.

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