Krasnaya Polyana, Russia • The convergence of sunshine, an improved performance and the realization that he’d reached the finish line of a remarkable Olympic career made Park City’s Billy Demong feel better about himself Thursday.
"Five’s enough," he said, pretty much declaring this his last Olympiad.
And sixth place would have to do as the ending, in the Nordic combined team event at the RusSki Jumping Center. Norway edged Germany for the gold medal in a sprint at the end of 4 x 5K cross-country ski race, following the large hill ski jumping competition.
Disappointed with his showing as the defending champion in Tuesday’s Nordic combined individual event in the rain, Demong was smiling as he lingered in the mixed-zone interview area. The U.S. team of Demong, Lodwick and brothers Bryan and Taylor Fletcher of Park City finished sixth among nine entries — not coming close to repeating the silver medal that Demong and Lodwick earned with Brett Camerota and Johnny Spillane in 2010.
And he remained "pretty confused" about what caused him to finish 31st in the individual event. Just the same, Demong found satisfaction Thursday. He liked how the team responded after a rough individual performance, and he could reflect on having markedly elevated the U.S. performance in this sport and look ahead to the program’s continued development.
"Now, we’re really going to see a turnover, and I’m excited for that," said Demong, 33.
"I think other guys deserve a chance, and having those open spots will help motivate them."
The Fletchers — Bryan is 23, Taylor is 23 — will become the leaders as Demong and Lodwick, who competed in his sixth Olympics at 37, likely step aside.
"I feel very confident that they can do it and they can usher in the next crew and show them how it’s done," Demong said.
Lodwick also spoke nostalgically. "The emotions are high, they’re low, they’re joyful, they’re tearful," he said.
The Americans stood eighth after the ski jumping portion, costing them time at the start of the cross-country skiing segment in the afternoon. That’s their strength, so a medal was not inconceivable at that point, but they overtook only the Czech Republic and Russia.
The Park City-based U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association is enjoying a strong Olympics, with a big boost from new sports, but the Nordic team couldn’t match its surprising contribution from 2010.
With a closing sprint from individual gold medalist Joergen Graabak, Norway won its first team gold medal since the inaugural event in 1998. "We need to take a lesson from our Norwegian friends that you don’t [have to] win medals in every Olympics to be successful in the long run," Demong said.
Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.