Demong tops among U.S. athletes at Summer Grand Prix stop


Demong tops among U.S. athletes at Summer Grand Prix stop{mosimage}BISCHOFSHOFEN, Austria — U.S. nordic combined skiers took a detour in their midsummer training camp Sunday night, competing in the lone Summer Grand Prix event which they’ll enter this preseason. Bill Demong was the top American, finishing 33rd.

After a rainy 10-kilometer race on inline skates, the jumping that concluded the mass-start event took place under the lights on the 140-meter hill in this village, which is the traditional final stop on ski jumping’s Four Hills Tournee. Austrian Felix Gottwald held off teammate Mario Stecher in the jumping to win the second nordic combined Summer Grand Prix event by 1.1 points.

In the Grand Prix, athletes jump on hills with plastic matting covering the landing area and race with inline skates. U.S. combiners don’t train with inline skates as they jump and roller-ski in preseason training. The next Grand Prix event is Wednesday in Berchtesgaden, Germany; the U.S. squad will be training in the Innsbruck area.

“This is the only comp we’ll enter, and it was a crazy day,” said U.S. head coach Lasse Ottesen. “A downpour hit the course in the middle of the [10 km] race, so that added to everything. But, of course, this is the only Grand Prix event we’ll be in this year; we’ve got 10 athletes here — both the World Cup and the Continental Cup teams … and we’ll move on [Monday] to Stams and Innsbruck for the final week of our training camp.”

Ottesen, who was named to succeed Bard Elden as head coach in the spring, said he and fellow coaches Chris Gilbertson and Dave Jarrett have been pleased, in general, with the progress of the ski team in Austria.

Former sprint world champ Johnny Spillane returned to jumping last month after reconstructive shoulder surgery in the spring while Olympian Brett Camerota is nursing a wrist injury, Coincidentally, Spillane was disqualified Sunday night for jumping skis that were too long; although marked 266 cm, they were measured at 267.5 and will be replaced, Ottesen said.

“It’s been a good camp so far. We’ve got Johnny and Billy and all the young guys over here. We could only ski five, so we chose Davis [Miller] because he’s a strong jumper, and the mass start leans more for jumpers. It’s good for him, and for the other young guys, to see the level you’ve got to be competing at on the World Cup. This isn’t World Cup-B.

“We’ve got a very young team and we have to be patient. But this is one step for them in gaining experience. Even the ones who didn’t compete saw the high level you must be at if you’re going to contend. They’re a year or two, or three, away from that, but they have to start somewhere,” Ottesen said.

The team heads back to the United States on Friday for some brief down time. It heads to Norway next month for another camp.

— USSA

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