U.S. Nordic combined seeks encore after 2010 Olympic breakthrough

Bill Demong

Go out on top? Bill Demong had every reason to Feb. 25, 2010.

The Vermontville, N.Y., native had won the first U.S. Olympic gold medal in Nordic combined, capping a bountiful Games for the team, successfully proposed to his girlfriend and was named the Closing Ceremony flagbearer. All on the same day.

His post-Olympic spoils would include throwing out the first pitch at a Mets game (perhaps not so prized in recent seasons), meeting President Barack Obama and renovating his Park City home with his wife, Katie. He took up cycling and enjoyed the gold-medal life.

Demong earned a break after about 15 years cultivating the U.S. Nordic combined program, along with Johnny Spillane and Todd Lodwick. Enough “What is Nordic combined?” questions. Enough cash-strapped European adventures, like crashing at a German mental institution for $14 a night.

But he felt compelled to come back.

“I really didn’t think our program was at a point where they could afford to lose all its best guys at once,” said Demong, who famously fractured his skull diving head-first into a shallow swimming pool in 2002. “I really felt I needed to stay on as a measuring stick, as a mentor.”

Demong (an Olympian since 1998), Spillane (since 2002) and Lodwick (since 1994) all stayed on, but the road the last three seasons has not been paved with gold.

Americans won zero medals at the 2011 World Championships and made a total of four podium appearances over more than 50 World Cup races the last three seasons.

Spillane tore an ACL and MCL jumping off a cliff into a lake five months after the Vancouver Olympics. He retired in April.

Lodwick battled asthma issues. He’s now 37 and hoping to make an American record sixth Winter Olympic team.

A new-and-old U.S. team hopes to regain that 2010 Olympic form the next two months. It began this weekend at the first World Cup event in Finland.

Financial issues remain, but these guys are having fun.

Demong and one of the team’s emerging stars, Taylor Fletcher, engaged in playful bets the last two seasons. They resulted in Fletcher wearing a Captain America suit and Demong dressing as Aquaman in Europe.

“It’s a good punishment,” Demong said. “That kind of attitude and those antics keep us fresh, light, motivated. You don’t want to be the guy wearing the costume for two weeks.”

On Feb. 24, the U.S. won its first World Championships medal since 2009, a bronze in a team event. They were powered by stars-and-stripes mustaches.

Demong’s favorite training partner — Scout

source: Getty Images
Getty Images

But what about Demong? He’s yet to work his way back into Olympic medal favorite form with one individual World Cup podium finish since Vancouver and 15th- and 23rd-place finishes at the World Championships in February.

The confidence is still there, though.

“The thing that tipped me toward coming back is I’m really now at my peak physical age,” Demong, 33, said. “I definitely feel like I’m coming back as a contender.”

Perhaps the greater threats are the Fletcher brothers, Bryan and Taylor. They’ve steadily moved up the World Cup ladder (bettering Demong and Lodwick last year) and, in their mid-20s, can carry U.S. Nordic combined after Sochi.

“Now, I can comfortably walk away and know that we’ve successfully passed the baton,” Demong said.

Cross-country season storylines

Yalemzerf Yehualaw, Amos Kipruto win London Marathon

Yalemzerf Yehualaw

Ethiopian Yalemzerf Yehualaw became the youngest female runner to win the London Marathon, while Kenyan Amos Kipruto earned the biggest victory of his career in the men’s race.

Yehualaw, 23, clocked 2:17:26, prevailing by 41 seconds over 2021 London champ Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya.

Yehualaw tripped and fell over a speed bump around the 20-mile mark. She quickly rejoined the lead pack, then pulled away from Jepkosgei by running the 24th mile in a reported 4:43, which converts to 2:03:30 marathon pace; the women’s world record is 2:14:04.

Yehualaw and Jepkosgei were pre-race favorites after world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya withdrew Monday with a right hamstring injury.

On April 24, Yehualaw ran the fastest women’s debut marathon in history, a 2:17:23 to win in Hamburg, Germany.

She has joined the elite tier of female marathoners, a group led by Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir, the reigning Olympic, New York City and Boston champion. Another Ethiopian staked a claim last week when Tigist Assefa won Berlin in 2:15:37, shattering Yehualaw’s national record.

Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, finished Sunday’s race in 3:20:20 at age 65.


Kipruto, 30, won the men’s race in 2:04:39. He broke free from the leading group in the 25th mile and crossed the finish line 33 seconds ahead of Ethiopian Leul Gebresilase, who said he had hamstring problems.

Kipruto, one of the pre-race favorites, had never won a major marathon but did finish second behind world record holder Eliud Kipchoge in Tokyo (2022) and Berlin (2018) and third at the world championships (2019) and Tokyo (2018).

Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest marathoner in history, was fifth after being dropped in the 21st mile. His 2:05:53 was the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. Bekele ran his personal best at the 2019 Berlin Marathon — 2:01:41 — and has not run within four minutes of that time since.

The major marathon season continues next Sunday with the Chicago Marathon, headlined by a women’s field that includes Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich and American Emily Sisson.

London returns next year to its traditional April place after being pushed to October the last three years due to the pandemic.

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2022 London Marathon Results

2022 London Marathon

2022 London Marathon top-10 results and notable finishers from men’s and women’s elite and wheelchair races. Full searchable results are here. ..

Men’s Elite
1. Amos Kipruto (KEN) — 2:04:39
2. Leul Gebresilase (ETH) — 2:05:12
3. Bashir Abdi (BEL) — 2:05:19
4. Kinde Atanaw (ETH) — 2:05:27
5. Kenenisa Bekele (ETH) — 2:05:53
6. Birhanu Legese (ETH) — 2:06:11
7. Sisay Lemma (ETH) — 2:07:26
8. Brett Robinson (AUS) — 2:09:52
9. Weynay Ghebresilasie (GBR) — 2:11:57
10. Philip Sesemann (GBR) — 2:12:10
DNS. Mo Farah (GBR)

Women’s Elite
1. Yalemzerf Yehualaw (ETH) — 2:17:26
2. Joyciline Jepkosgei (KEN) — 2:18:07
3. Alemu Megertu (ETH) — 2:18:32
4. Judith Korir (KEN) — 2:18:43
5. Joan Melly (ROU) — 2:19:27
6. Ashete Bekere (ETH) — 2:19:30
7. Mary Ngugi (KEN) — 2:20:22
8. Sutume Kebede (ETH) — 2:20:44
9. Ai Hosoda (JPN) — 2:21:42
10. Rose Harvey (GBR) — 2:27:59
Joan Benoit Samuelson (USA, 1984 Olympic champion) — 3:20:20
DNS. Brigid Kosgei (KEN)

Men’s Wheelchair
1. Marcel Hug (SUI) — 1:24:38
2. Daniel Romanchuk (USA) — 1:24:40
3. David Weir (GBR) — 1:30:41
4. Tomoki Suzuki (JPN) — 1:30:41
5. Jetze Plat (NED) — 1:30:44
6. Aaron Pike (USA) — 1:33:05
7. Sho Watanabe (JPN) — 1:34:16
8. Jake Lappin (USA) — 1:34:16
9. Patrick Monahan (IRL) — 1:34:16
10. Johnboy Smith (GBR) — 1:34:17

Women’s Wheelchair
1. Catherine Debrunner (SUI) — 1:38:24
2. Susannah Scaroni (USA) — 1:42:21
3. Eden Rainbow-Cooper (GBR) — 1:47:27
4. Merle Menje (GER) — 1:47:28
5. Jenna Fesemyer (USA) — 1:47:28
6. Wakako Tsuchida (JPN) — 1:47:28
7. Vanessa De Souza (BRA) — 1:47:29
8. Yen Hoang (USA) — 1:47:29
9. Aline Rocha (BRA) — 1:47:32
10. Christie Dawes (GBR) — 1:47:33

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