OUR OLYMPIAN BILL
By Teresa R. Eshelman
Our local Olympian, Bill Demong, started cross-country skiing under the guidance of his father at around six years of age. Bill and his friends continued skiing at Dewey Mountain for the next few years. As youth matures, thrills and excitement start to captivate them and ski jumping has more appeal than cross-country skiing. There are no real competitive national professional events in cross-country skiing as is in other skiing meets. At this stage in Bill's life, around 9 years old, he and his friends started to ski jump.
For the next few years, Bill was a student at the Saranac Lake Central School District in Saranac Lake, New York, as well as at the National Sports Academy in Lake Placid. Arrangements were made between the Saranac Lake School and the National Sports Academy for all class work to be completed and credits transferred from the National Sports Academy to Saranac Lake School. There were many times when Bill and some of his classmates had to study in hotels and on planes when other members of the team were free. .Of course, discipline is a worthy trait to develop in a sports career as well as in life.
The highest level in training and the goal is to participate in the Olympics. The athlete must focus on the many steps along the way before he can say that I want to be in the Olymics. It was during the summer and fall training of 1997, that Bill first realized he might have a chance to be in the Olympics.
Intensive training continued at Steamboat Springs, Colorado for Bill's team who were: Kristopher Erichsen, Johnny Spillane, Casey Colby, Taylor Hoffman and Bill Demong. Steamboat Springs, Colorado has gained a renowned athletic training status, especially in the skiing events world. It boasts of consistent 40 feet of snow year around and great facilities. There are 60 to 90 skiers there all summer who are training for big competition. The event, called "As You Like", which is equivalent to the Olympics attracts many skiers. The top 50 skiers in this event are some of the best skiers in the world and earned the position by points. It is a way of getting experience toward the Olympics.
The competitive Colorado season for Bill started November 5, 1997, with Thanksgiving and Christmas off. On January 19, 1998, his team went to St. Moritz, Switzerland for the World Juniors event. Some of the athletes families were able to attend the events at St. Moritz including Bill's father, Leo Demong. It was understandably a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The families were allowed to stay in the same hotel and eat with the athletes. It was at this last dinner in St. Moritz that the announcement was made by the St. Moritz coach as to who was chosen to go to the Olympics. Three athletes were chosen: Kristopher Erichsen, Johnny Spillane and Bill Demong. You can imagine Leo's joy!
The team returned on January 25th with only ten days to get ready for the Olympics in Nagano, Japan. Prior to the event,individual Nordic combined competition, one of Bill's bests friends, Kristopher Erichsen on his own decision, gave his place on the team for the event to Bill Demong. When the coaches and Norweigans learned of this action, Kristopher Erichsen was highly applauded and made national headlines.. The Norweigan and American coaches have strong ties. Kristopher Erichsen was born in the United States and his family still live in Norway. Skiing in Norway is bigger than any other sport.
On Thursday, February 12, 1998, (Friday 13, in Nagano) in a surprise move, U. S. Nordic coaches changed the lineup and moved Bill Demong into the individual Nordic combined competition. After Bill's first jump, he was in 8th place which was pretty much unexpected. After all 60 skiers had jumped, Bill's name was still on the billboard at number 8. The billboard stays up for the whole competition and lists only the first 10 skiers. It was incredible for Bill to see his name on the billboard. The team knew that they could be a definite medal favorite in team events, but unfortunately did not ski up to their potential. At that moment it is everything to win the event especially at age 17.
Bill's mother, Helen, the local high school vocal music instructor and choral director was able to attend the Olympics in Nagano, Japan which is a great thrill for a parent.
On February 24, 1998, Bill and Johnny Spillane were picked to bring the U. S. Olympic flag that flew in Nagano to Salt Lake City, Utah to present to the mayor of Salt Lake City, Deedee Corradini. Salt Lake City will be the site of the next Winter Olympics in 2002. The rest of the team went on a free trip to Hawaii. A welcoming committee met Bill on Wednesday the 25th of February and he was honored with a parade to Harrietstown Hall in Saranac Lake. The Mayor and local Board Members were on hand to greet the Olympian as well as the Town of Franklin Board Members and he was given the keys to the village.
It is now time to return to The National Sports Academy for two weeks of training, after which he goes back to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. On March 17 and 18, 1998, Bill participated in 4 or 5 days competition special jumping on K90 and K120 hills. Training continues and it is now time to leave for Oslo, Norway on June 8, 1998, for three weeks where he will meet the new Junior Coach, and other Norwegian skiers. Bill will return home on June 26, 1998 in order to graduate from The Saranac Lake High School. The other team members will remain in Norway until July 6th. After graduation, he will train in Lake Placid for the rest of the summer, and later will be moving to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. This will be a semi-permanent move to continue training there.
I have yet to meet a more pleasant, accomplished, 17 year-old athlete.
Town of Franklin
You are the visitor. Thank You for stopping by.