Stone, fire and plenty of air
Born one month after the 1980 Winter Games, Demong got his start in sports with the Lake Placid Ski Club at age five. Three years later, the local jump coach, Larry Stone, presented a video on ski jumping at one of Demong's practices, and the youngster thought "it looked awesome." Having the racing background and falling in love with jumping, it was a natural transition for Demong to get involved in Nordic combined. He did not attempt his first normal hill (K90) jump until he was 14, but after a six-week training stint with prominent Norwegian coach Baard Joergen Elden (Austria's head coach whose last name means 'fire'), he propelled himself to the top of the U.S. rankings. At age 17, he competed in two events at his first Olympic Games in Nagano.
Hitting rock bottom
In August 2002, Demong fractured his skull diving into a shallow swimming pool, suffering a seven-inch fracture from his orbital bone to the crown of his skull and two black eyes. Advised to take a full year off from competition, he learned carpentry. With his short-term memory severely compromised, wood-working helped stimulate his brain activity. "A lot of times I had to write down ‘forty eight and a half inches' because there was no way I could remembered it from the time I measured it to the time I needed to cut it. I couldn't remember names, I couldn't remember anything. Like, I had no mental echo, no chalkboard in my head where I could hear a four digit number and remember it."
In politics, there was Watergate. In Nordic combined, there was "Bibgate." Far from a controversy or scandal, Bibgate was simply a tale of human error, committed by Demong at the 2009 World Championships. Prior to the jumping portion of the team event, Demong misplaced his athlete's bib, thereby disqualifying him and digging a deep hole for the U.S. team. The bib turned up later in a leg of his jumping suit. Per routine, he had placed his bib in the chest pocket inside his suit to keep it dry on a wet and snowy day, and it had fallen down.
Race of redemption
Demong apologized to his forgiving teammates for his costly error. After he rebounded two days later to win the gold medal in the individual large hill event, he still had his teammates on his mind. "I owed it to them. After it happened, I actually needed my team's support. I really felt that I let them down, so today is dedicated to them."
Cycle is more than a routine
Demong is respected as one of the hardest-working athletes on the U.S. Olympic team. An illustration of this is given by ski jumper Anders Johnson: "He will wake up at four in the morning, go hike up some insane mountain with his cross-country skis, find a field and go trudging around cross-country. Then he'll come back down for breakfast, go do intervals on his bike for two hours, come home and eat lunch. Then he'll go and do a bike race. I don't think the guy has taken a day off since he was 13." In 2009, Demong and three U.S. teammates did a competitive time trial on the legendary Tour de France stage, Alpe d'Huez, and he won handily, in a time of 49 minutes.
Only half the truth
In 2008, Demong was featured in a television commercial for Alka-Seltzer Plus cold medicine. The caption identifying him at the beginning of the 15-second spot read "Bill Demong, US cross country ski team." There was no mention of his membership on the U.S. Nordic combined team or that his athletic pursuits are dual: ski jumping and cross-country skiing.
As the pilot for the USA-1 bobsled, I broke a 62-year gold medal drought when my sled, the 'Night Train" won the Olympic title at the 2010 Vancouver Games. A degenerative eye condition nearly caused me to quit my sport in 2008, but corrective surgery restored my vision to 20-20.