Thrilling Continental Cup opener in the U.S.
About three weeks after the World Cup opening it finally also was "Ready, set, go!" for the Continental Cup athletes who started their season in the USA. For the sixth time, the Continental Cup returned to Utah Olympic Park and Soldier Hollow in early December to get the season underway. Three Individual Gundersen competitions waited for the athletes on the venues of the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, three chances to fight for valuable COC-points and quota spots in the World Cup.
Demong Man of the Weekend
U.S. veteran Billy Demong returned from the World Cup in Europe to represent his country at the home competitions and with two victories and one second place, Demong surely was the man of the week. But far from being totally superior, Demong found tough competition in Austria's Tomaz Druml and Italy's Lukas Runggaldier who claimed a third, a win and a second rank and a second place, a third and a fourth rank respectively, taking up almost all of the podium spots, except for a third place on the last competition day which went to France's Hugo Buffard.
Team-wise, the Austrians dominated the Continental Cup, placing five athletes in the Top Ten in each of the three competitions. A clear signal that for the future, there are young athletes getting ready for challenges to come in the World Cup in Austria.
"High level of organisation"
But no matter which country they were from, the athletes, as well as Continental Cup Coordinator Toni Guggemoos, were full of praise for the level of professionalism and the perfect organisation and conditions the local Organising Committee offered.
World Cup veteran Billy Demong: "I'm really excited to be back on the Continental Cup at home for a few reasons. It's really great to see what kind of community support and volunteerism make this a really professional event. FIS and the Organizing Committee here in Park City have created an exceptional event for the early season Nordic Combined Continental Cup and the level of the competitors is high as well as the level of the organization. It's a very fair, very well put on competition and I'm sure all of the teams really appreciate this level of competition at this time of the year."
His oppenent Tomaz Druml couldn't agree more: "I've been here many times. Soldier Hollow is a great place to ski. The area for cross country tracks is just amazing. It's also amazing at the Utah Olympic Park – great hills and a perfect profile. I just really love it here and hope that we can come back here for many years. And I hope that maybe there can be a World Cup here."
After its flying start in the USA, the Continental Cup is now off to destinations in Europe in the new year: Høydalsmo, Norway, Klingenthal, Germany and Planica, Slovenia are on schedule as well as the Junior World Championships in Val di Fiemme which will probably be on the plan for a lot of the young aspiring Nordic Combined talents in 2014.FIS Nordic Combined World Cup Calendar 2016/17