Demong wins Continental Cup opener
Olympic Champion Billy Demong sprinted to victory over Italy's Lukas Runggaldier and Austria's Tomaz Druml at the FIS Nordic Combined Continental Cup at 2002 Olympic venue Soldier Hollow. Demong began the day with a 91.5m jump, putting him into third to start the cross country portion. Italian Lukas Runggaldier, who started the cross country portion in fifth, caught up to Demong and the two battled it out throughout the entire race. In a dramatic finish, Demong edged out Runggaldier for the win, crossing the finish line 0.2 seconds ahead of the Italian. Austria's Tomaz Druml finished third, 28.8 seconds after Demong.
For Demong, coming straight from a World Cup Top Ten rank in Ramsau, everythings going according to plan: "Bill has a job to do. His goal is to finish ranked among the top three to earn our team a fifth World Cup quota spot as we enter period two and the final Olympic selection block. Having that extra quota spot is vital in our preparation for Sochi", coach Greg Poirier explains.
After the ski jumping part, Demong had been lying in third only 14 seconds behind intermediate leader Lukas Greiderer from Austria who jumped 92 metres (116.5 p) Ukraine's Vitaliy Kalinichenko surprised with an equalle good jump of 93 metres and also 116.5 points, tying for the intermediate pole position. Lukas Runggaldier went out on the track 20 seconds after the leading duo.
In the end, World Cup athletes Demong and Runggaldier battled for the win and Austria's Druml skied to the podium from an intermediate 13th rank. Austria managed to place a whopping five athletes in the Top Ten, contrasting the World Cup team's mediocre results at the moment. The fastest time on the track went to Alexander Brandner who improved an intermediate 33th rank to a final seventh one.
Winner Demong was happy: "This is a tough tour – there are a lot of young guys coming up who trained hard all summer and are at a top level, or World Cup athletes who are trying to score points to get a spot back. Today, I skied quite a battle with Lukas Runggaldier from Italy. He's one of the fastest guys out there – he and I were first and second fastest at World Championships – and I eeked it out right at the line.