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Portrait of USA's Billy Demong, #31, after he competed in the Sochi Olympics Nordic Combined Normal Hill/10km 2/12/14. Photo: © Nancie Battaglia
Portrait of USA's Billy Demong, #31, after he competed in the Sochi Olympics Nordic Combined Normal Hill/10km 2/12/14. Photo: © Nancie Battaglia

Bill Demong's tough day in Sochi

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One of the North Country's top medal hopefuls had a challenging day yesterday in Sochi. Bill Demong from Vermontville finished 24th in the Nordic combined, a sport that includes long distance ski jumping and cross-country ski racing.

Chris Knight from the Adirondack Daily Enterprise is in Sochi. He was at trackside for yesterday's race. We heard from him there:

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Chris Knight
Adirondack Correspondent

"All right, we're just about to start the cross-country portion of the nordic combined, and Billy [Demong] and the Fletcher brothers [Bryan and Taylor] and Todd Lodwick are all in their starting positions. It's still a gorgeous day; it's really warm here and I'm not wearing a jacket—could probably get by in a t-shirt. The stadium's filled up pretty well now, and we're about ready to go.

"As you look around the venue here, you'll see the snow on the track, but no snow anywhere else. It's just brown. They've really had a tough time to keep the snow pack in good shape here.

"We're getting some first numbers from the 1.5 kilometer checkpoint. A Japanese skier has moved into first place, just ahead of Eric Frenzel of Germany. Here they are, coming into the stadium; it looks like Demong has lost a lot of time. He's now a minute and twenty-eight back, in twenty-third place."

USA's Billy Demong, #31, competes in the Sochi Olympics Nordic Combined Normal Hill/10km 2/12/14. Photo: © Nancie Battaglia
USA's Billy Demong, #31, competes in the Sochi Olympics Nordic Combined Normal Hill/10km 2/12/14. Photo: © Nancie Battaglia
Demong finished officially in 24th place. He spoke with Chris Knight after the competition and said he felt strong on the cross-country track, until he ran into a bottleneck of skiers.

"The race—I felt great," said Demong, "and then I ended up getting caught in a big pile-up on the second lap and spent the entire third lap trying to catch back up and kind of blew myself up. But the feelings, the sensations up to that point were good. I have the capability to put in a good race now, and just have to steer clear of trouble, I guess."

One complication in Sochi is that those high temperatures are producing soft, slushy snow, which race managers are trying to maintain using chemicals. Demong said that made the course more difficult.

"It's definitely hard," said Demong, "and it's a combination of the fact that it's obviously very warm, the snow's tending to break down into being slushy, but also there's a lot of salt and chemicals in the snow, so it tends to feel pretty slow underfoot, not as free as you would expect to feel. It feels abrasive, like you're skiing on fur a little bit."

Demong, who won a silver and a gold medal in Vancouver four years ago, competes again next Tuesday.

Jimmy Howard in the net. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/19915432@N00/4546459610/">MPR529</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Jimmy Howard in the net. Photo: MPR529, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Coming up today:

Today in Sochi, four North Country athletes will compete. Tim Burke from Paul Smiths and Lowell Bailey from Lake Placid take the course for the men's 20k biathlon. Chris Mazdzer from Saranac Lake and Erin Hamlin from Remsen will slide in the luge relay. Also Ogdensburgh's Jimmy Howard will suit up for the men's hockey match against Slovakia.

Find the latest results and new pictures from Sochi all through the day at our North Country at Sochi page. And don't forget that the latest news about North Country athletes are going out all through the day over Twitter at #ncprolympics.


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