won gold and Johnny Spillane
won silver, his third silver medal of the Vancouver Games, in large hill Nordic Combined
Demong, starting sixth in the 10-kilometer cross-country
after the morning ski jump, quickly made up time on the leaders and won easily.
Despite falling near the end of the race, Spillane passed Bernhard Gruber of Austria to win the silver. Gruber ended up with bronze.
The U.S., which had never won a Nordic Combined medal before these Games, now has four total. Spillane won a silver in the normal hill event, and the U.S. won silver in the team event.
The cross-country race was run in much better weather than the morning ski jump, but the soft, sometimes choppy snow put a premium on the proper wax and ski setup. Unlike the team relay when Demong was done in by bad skis, he had the perfect combination to put the Americans atop the podium.
But the damage had been done to the sport's better athletes.
“It's a joke,” Norway's Magnus Moan fumed of the final Nordic combined race at the Winter Games after managing to jump just 112.5 meters in a driving, wet snow and tail wind that pushed him down early.
That had him starting 2 minutes, 21 seconds behind Gruber, who jumped in much better conditions after a restart earlier in the morning.
Gruber, ranked 22nd in the World Cup standings, capitalized on a rogue headwind that helped him stay aloft for a top jump of 134 meters.
“It's like a lottery. Some guys got good conditions, some others terrible conditions,” shrugged World Cup leader Jason Lamy Chappuis, of France, who won the gold in the normal hill 10K but started this race in 29th and finished in 18th.
Todd Lodwick, America's only five-time Olympic skier, did his part to help his teammates.
“Once I saw those two guys pull away, I jumped in front (of the chase group) and tried to slow down the pace,” Lodwick said.
It worked perfectly.
-- Houston Mitchell in Vancouver
Photo: Bill Demong, with Johnny Spillane behind him, wins his gold medal on Thursday. Credit: Patrick Seeger / EPA.