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Germans continue hot streak; Demong leads U.S. team

March 14, 2011
By TOM?KELLY, U.S. Ski Team

LAHTI, Finland - Germany continued its late-season dominance of the FIS Nordic Combined World Cup as Johannes Rydzek and Eric Frenzel finished 1-2 with a photo finish in the large hill in Lahti, ahead of Austria's hard charging Felix Gottwald.

Vermontville native Billy Demong led the USA in 19th.

Rydzek, the World Championship silver medalist on the large hill, was 12th in the jump and paired up with teammate Frenzel to challenge World Cup leader Jason Lamy-Chappuis of France in a second-half battle.

Lamy-Chappuis had worked his way up from nearly a 1 minute deficit after the jump to take the lead at the midway point. The final kilometers were a battle, with Austria's Gottwald challenging the leaders, posting the fastest cross country time.

Demong, meanwhile, was saddled with nearly a 2-minute setback going into the cross country. He blazed ahead and quickly cut nearly a minute. Saturday's winner Bjorn Kircheisen of Germany was just ahead of Demong and opted to go out hard to try to chase down Gottwald. Demong did not join the sprint, hanging back 10 to 15 seconds.

Gottwald eventually went to the front, while Kircheisen dropped back. The group was not able to bridge up to the leaders with Demong finishing 44 seconds out in 19th with the eighth fastest time.

"It was still not quite a good enough starting point, said nordic combined head coach Dave Jarrett. "Billy skied well. I think everyone's pretty cooked from World Championships."

The Lahti Ski Games wraps up the FIS Nordic Combined World Cup season, which was dominated by Lamy-Chappuis. He won 894-656 over Norway's Mikko Kokslien, picking up four wins over the 13 event season. Gottwald was third.

For the USA, which had a dominant Olympics in 2010, it was a frustrating season with injuries and illness playing a key role.

"It was a challenging year," said Jarrett. "We made the best of where we were going into World Championships and did a good job peaking. We just needed to start from a higher spot [after jumps]. From where it was with injuries and sickness, the goal was always Oslo. We did what we were planning on doing but just didn't get any medals."

The athletes will take a break for a few weeks but will be back together next month with the first 2012 training camp April 4 at the Center of Excellence in Park City, Utah.



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