Let there be no confusion, Nordic combined Olympic gold medalist Billy Demong is not returning to the World Cup circuit or the US national team. However, he did compete in a Nordic combined competition at Steamboat Springs on the weekend of July 4th.
It all started with a friendly bet.
Rumor has it that the US ski team’s special jumper Casey Larson had a better jump than Demong one day at the national championships 10 years ago near Chicago. Larson has talked a bit since then and wanted to face the Olympian.
Larson is a special jumper, which means he only does ski jumping and hasn’t competed in a Nordic or cross-country ski race in years. Meanwhile, Demong has only jumped about three times since retiring in 2015.
The July 4th competition was the perfect place for the two to go head to head. They jumped on Saturday and concluded the competition with a 3 kilometer run down Yampa Street before the parade on Sunday morning.
“He actually ran over me while jumping,” Demong said. “I started a minute behind him in a 3 km race that lasts eight minutes and is 59.5 seconds. I could have put a hole in his back with my pole, but I couldn’t get past him.
Now Larson can pick a costume Deong will wear for a day during the national championships. It must be PG-13 and must be less than $ 100.
“For the most part, I don’t say bullshit about things I can’t back up,” Larson said. “I’m proud of myself for eliminating him. I thought I was going to jump better, so I was really afraid of how little time I had in front of him, but I managed to make him work.
At Jumpin ‘and Jammin’, the playoff-style show jumping competition on Sunday afternoon, Demong returned to a life of retirement, letting the current stars of the sport show off.
The event started with 48 competitors and knocked out 16 to drop to 32, then halved the competition in each round until four men remained standing: Larson, Evan Nichols of New Hampshire, Grant Andrews of Steamboat and Olympian Jasper Good. The four had led the field all day and the crowds at the foot of Howelsen Hill were expecting a close ski jumping final.
Members of the US national team did not disappoint.
Andrews took a huge leap, pumping his fists and feeling confident in his chances. Good flew a meter further, winning the day’s longest jump of 76.5 meters.
Every time he lowered the bar and got into position at the top of the flight, the crowd cheered, “Jasper, Jasper, Jasper.” Good competed this winter in Europe, but there was no crowd.
“It was great fun to find that atmosphere again,” he said. “We’re used to this in international competitions, and we haven’t had any of that this year. That it comes back a bit, especially in the United States, it’s cool.
There was only Larson left.
“Being the last guy every time, hearing ‘Jasper, Jasper’ was the most intimidating thing,” Larson said.
Larson’s jump looked great from start to finish, and Good got a little nervous watching the member of the Norge Ski Club fly.
“I was like, ‘Oh, Casey is high,’” Good said.
It took a few minutes for the judges to relay Larson’s distance: 76 meters, good enough for second place. Good was the winner of both Jumpin ‘and Jammin’ and the competition on Saturday and Sunday.
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.