It's been nearly two years since Bill Demong has stood on the podium following a top-level nordic combined competition. In fact, the last time the Vermontville native earned a medal was an Olympic gold at the 2010 Games in Vancouver.
Demong ended the drought on Sunday, leading a strong United States performance with a World Cup bronze medal in Val Di Fiemme, Italy at the same site where Demong captured his last World Cup medal just prior to the Vancouver Olympics.
On Sunday, Demong stood in 17th place after the jumping portion of the event, and then rallied big time by turning in the fastest finish time in the 10-kilometer cross country ski race to finish less than four seconds behind the winner, Japan's Akito Watabe. Demong was also less than a second off the silver medal finish time.
Bill Demong, of Vermontville, races to third place during a World Cup nordic combined competition Sunday in Val di Fiemme, Italy.
(AP photo - Armando Trovati)
"It feels good to be back on the podium," Demong said. "I hadn't really thought about it until we got to the press conference and realized the last time I was on a World Cup podium was when we were in Val di Fiemme in 2010 right before the Olympics. It's been two years, and the same location. It's good because it's the site of the World Championships this year."
Sunday's race wrapped up three days of World Cup nordic combined racing at the site. On Friday, Demong was 18th in an individual 10k race and joined Steamboat Springs, Colo. native Bryan Fletcher to finish sixth in Saturday's 2x7.5k team event, where the pair finished less than nine seconds off the podium.
Demong turned in a finish time of 28 minutes, 31.7 seconds en route to his third-place finish. Watabe won in 28:28.7 and Mikko Kokslein of Norway was runner-up in 28.30.8.
"Today, I was a little more patient and made it happen," Demong said. "At the end of the race I had enough energy left to keep pushing. On Friday I started very very hard and yesterday (Saturday's team race) I was really tired. Today finally was a good race from start to finish. I'm really happy now."
With Demong leading the way, all four US skiers placed in the top 20. Bryan Fletcher matched a career-best World Cup result, finishing seventh, Taylor Fletcher placed 14th and three-time Olympian Johnny Spillane was 19th.
"The courses are super hard here. They are revamped," Demong said. "I don't know if I ever skied a harder cross country course than today."
"All our guys jumped really well, but we have to take our hats off to Akito Watabe who pretty much schooled everyone on the jumping hill and had a big lead," U.S. nordic combined head coach Dave Jarrett said. "We've been putting a lot of energy into getting it going and hopefully we can keep it rolling."
The U.S. nordic combined skiers will next be in World Cup competition Feb. 18 and 19 in Klingenthal, Germany.