U.S. men ski to historic 1-2 finish Kim sets record in skating to gold
By Arnie Stapleton
WHISTLER, British Columbia — They swore they didn't care which one of them won gold to become America's first Olympic champion in a Nordic sport.
Anyone who watched, knew Billy Demong skied to win.
He attacked on the final hill, hustled into the stadium and raced across the finish line well ahead of three-time silver medalist Johnny Spillane, giving the United States a 1-2 finish yesterday in the large hill competition at Nordic combined.
Challenging wind gusts and pelting rain, sleet and snow on the jump hill did little to dampen the Americans' jubilation.
"I don't think either of us really cared which one was first or second," Demong, of Vermontville, N.Y., said after ending America's golden goose egg in Nordic sports at the Winter Games by winning the 10-kilometer cross-country leg in 25 minutes, 32.9 seconds.
Spillane, of Steamboat Springs, Colo., was four seconds behind him, and Bernhard Gruber of Austria, who had a 34-second head start after jumping the farthest off the large hill following a restart, was 10.8 seconds back and won the bronze.
Twice before at these Vancouver Games, Spillane was edged for the gold medal on the stadium straightaway, first by France's Jason Lamy Chappuis in the normal hill race and then by Austria's Mario Stecher in the team relay Tuesday.
"Whoever was first and whoever wasn't second didn't really matter that much," said Spillane, the only U.S. multimedalist in Nordic sports. "Skiing into the stadium down that final stretch was quite a bit of fun."
He knew he couldn't catch Demong and couldn't be caught by Gruber, so he had a leisurely finish to relish his third silver.
Demong started in sixth place and 46 seconds back, but quickly caught his teammate and Gruber on a one-man breakaway from the chase group for a three-man race the rest of the way.
They didn't have to worry about some of the best World Cup athletes catching them after worsening weather in the morning hampered the top jumpers on the large hill, relegating them too far back in the field to be a factor.