KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia - The parents of a pair of local Olympians say they've enjoyed their time at the Sochi winter games.
"The trip itself was the long journey, but since we've arrived we've found people to be super-nice," said Helen Demong, mother of Vermontville native and nordic combined athlete Billy Demong. "The people at our hotel are very hospitable. The people at the venues have been great."
Demong and her husband, Joe McPhillips, are staying at a hotel in Adler, near the so-called coastal cluster of Olympic venues. Since Billy has been training and competing at the RusSki Gorki Ski Jumping Center in the mountain cluster, they've had to travel, typically about an hour by train, to watch him.
Family members of ski jumpers Peter Frenette and Nick Fairall, and nordic combined athletes Billy Demong and Bryan and Taylor Fletcher belt out a 'U-S-A!' chant at the RusSki Gorki Ski Jumping Center, where those events took place at the Sochi Winter Olympics.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)
Demong said it took her and McPhillips a couple of days to "learn the ropes" about transportation. She also said communicating with Russian-speaking people has been a challenge, but otherwise they've had few complaints.
"It's been awesome," said Peter Frenette of Saranac Lake, father of U.S. ski jumper Peter Frenette. "Everything has been first class, first rate. The transportation, the people have been awesome and really friendly. The venues all seem great."
Frenette's only regret?
"I wish I had brought my alpine skis."
Peter Frenette Sr. and his wife Jennie, who also stayed in Adler, have returned home to Saranac Lake since they spoke with the Enterprise. Before they left, however, they said the enjoyed their time here.
"The first night here it was a little, 'What bus do you get on?'" Jennie Frenette said. "We went the wrong way one time, but after the first day you figure it out.
"We walked on the boardwalk in Adler and spent a day chilling at the coastal cluster. It was great. Just walking around with thousands and thousands of people. I think the Russian people really are supporting these Olympics, and it's great to see."
This was the second Olympics for the Frenettes. Their son also competed in the Vancouver games four years ago. Jennie Frenette said she was happy to be here supporting her son, regardless how he jumped.
"I just want him to enjoy his experience and have a good time," she said.
This is the fifth and final Olympics for Billy Demong. His mom has traveled to each one, including the Vancouver games four years ago when he won gold and silver medals.
"What an incredible journey it's been," she said. "I feel like I've seen the world as the parent of an outstanding athlete. It's been special. The fact that he's the first American to ever win a (nordic ski) gold medal, I couldn't be prouder."
Demong said her son's success could not have been possible without the support of cross-country ski coaches Kris Seymour and Al Barrett, who also coached local biathletes Lowell Bailey, Tim Burke and Annelies Cook. She also thanked the many people in the Tri-Lakes who've encouraged and supported her son over the years.
"You always hear that it takes a village," said Jennie Frenette. "We have three great communities that have been supportive of all the local athletes. We have some special people."