Dedication and a dream
Because of the Olympic venues in Lake Placid, many local children have grown up here dreaming of one day competing on the world’s biggest stage – the Olympics.
Among those dreamers was Vermontville native Billy Demong, who at age 33 is currently competing in his fifth and final Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Demong competes in the sport of Nordic combined, which features ski jumping and cross-country skiing. He won a gold medal in the large hill competition and a silver medal in the team event at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Demong’s first days of ski jumping as a young child were at what was once called Intervale, now the Olympic Jumping Complex in Lake Placid. As a child, he would leave school in Saranac Lake in the afternoon, head to a candy store on Main Street for a snack and then head over to the library, where his parents would pick him up and drive him to the ski jumps for practice.
Demong also traveled a lot with other local children to compete in cross-country races in Old Forge, Saranac Lake and Lake Placid. When he wasn’t competing in Lake?Placid, ski jumping competitions took him east of here to states like New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine, according to his father Leo Demong, who still resides in Vermontville.
Recently, Leo shared an essay with the Enterprise from a young Billy Demong about ski jumping (shown at far right). It was written for one of his classes at the time, which would have likely been at the Petrova Elementary School, after a trip to Rumford, Maine, where there was a ski jumping competition, Leo said.
Leo said his son loved cross-country skiing and ski jumping and dreamed of making the Olympics from a young age.
“When he was 10 or 11, he was standing in the doorway that I’m looking at right now,” Leo said, laughing while being interviewed over the phone this week from his Vermontville home. “I think I was after him to mow the lawn, and he looked at me and he said, ‘Hey look, I’m trying to win the Olympics here.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, go mow the lawn.”
But Leo said Billy didn’t always excel at ski jumping and struggled as a young child and early teenager.
“He was always a good skier,” Leo recalled. “It was funny. Sometimes he would be on the podium with guys that were a foot taller than him, a foot and a half taller than him. It was hysterical. But his jumping came slow, and it was a frustration to him and he couldn’t move up. He was on the small jumps forever. And that trip that’s portrayed in that essay that he wrote, I took him with a bunch of other parents. We went to Rumford, Maine. And it was one more chapter in the Bill Demong struggle. That’s just a little kid’s report, you know.”
But Billy’s ski jumping started to improve in the summer of 1997 when he went to a six-week summer ski jumping camp in Lake Placid that was run by Norway’s legendary Nordic combined athlete Bard Elden, who would coach the U.S. national team.
“Bard Elden was the coach, and that’s when he was like 15, I think,” Leo said. “His jumping just quantum leaped at that point.”
The next year in 1998, Billy competed in the Nagano Winter Olympics, his first games.
An article in the Nov. 8, 1997 edition of the Enterprise detailed the Olympian’s ascent in Nordic combined at the time.
“Demong, who began cross-country skiing at the age of 6, and jumping with (coach Larry) Stone at the age of 9, had always been a better skier than jumper,” stated the article.
“Billy never really understood the takeoff,’ Stone said. ‘but over the summer it just started to click for him.'”
“It happened so fast after that,” Leo Demong recalled.
By Bill Demong
(The future Olympian wrote this essay at about the age of 10.)
Its fast, its long, its high flying fun, its ski jumping!! The newest rage in winter sports!!
Ski jumping is one of those sports that has been around since who knows when. And it just keeps on improving.
I, for one, am a junior jumper. I think it is a marvelous, and I think that everyone that is interested should try it. If you want a sensation of what it is like, read my sensational paragraph.
Its the beginning of a jumping meet… you head up the stairs and get in line. You pull down your goggles, take a deep breath, and push off down the run. Muscles straining, tightening, you jump… just off the edge you feel the wind rushing straight into your face. You feel brave enough to open your eyes to see that you are going further than ever. You look down to see hundreds of faces bright with wonder. As you land, you take on a telemark position for points, listen to the thunderous applause … 1 down, 2 to go!!