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Elizabeth Ladzinski, Marcus Harun
Billy Demong is a Nordic ski champion who will join Team USA at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic games. Find out more about him and watch the games on NBC starting Feb. 6.
Team USA's Nordic combined skier Bill Demong has had a busy four years since he won gold at the Vancouver Games in 2010. He's gotten married, had a child and even taken a brief hiatus from the sport.
Now he's back for his fifth Olympic games, in the hopes of winning another medal for Team USA in the Nordic combined, which combines ski jumping with cross-country skiing.
The 33-year-old has been competing for 15 years on the World Cup Circuit, and in that time, he's been on seven World Championship teams and won eight U.S. titles. Most recently, his team secured bronze at last year's FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Italy.
Here are five key things to know about Demong.
Gold in Vancouver. Demong won Olympic gold in Vancouver in 2010 in the men's 10km individual large hill competition — becoming the first American ever to win gold in a Nordic combined event. The achievement earned him a permanent place in U.S. Nordic history.
...and then some. But a gold medal win wasn't all he had to celebrate that day. After the medal ceremony, he proposed to his girlfriend, Katie Koczynski, at team headquarters while his teammates looked on. (She said yes.) If that string of victories weren't enough, just a few hours later he was named Team USA's closing ceremony flagbearer, one of the highest honors an Olympian can receive.
Capturing the King's Cup. In 2009, Demong became just the third American ever to win the Holmenkollen Ski Festival Nordic Combined World Cup, the sport's most prestigious event and highly coveted prize, also known as the King's Cup. He began the event in seventh place but was able to catch up to the front of the pack — and finally to win one of the biggest races of his career.
Overcoming head trauma. Demong suffered what could have been a career-ending injury in 2002, just after the Salt Lake City Games — but it had nothing to do with skiing. He dove into a shallow pool and was left with a 7-inch fracture from his orbital bone to the crown of his skull. Doctors thought he'd never compete again, and it took him a full year to recover.
Man or Aquaman? What better to motivate an Olympian than a bet with a teammate? Last fall, after he lost a bet to teammate Taylor Fletcher, Demong was forced to wear an Aquaman suit during training in Europe. His penance included wearing the suit everywhere — on the slopes, out at restaurants and through airport security — and not washing it for a full two weeks. (Maybe he'd had it coming: The year before, Fletcher had lost the bet and had to wear a Captain America suit.)
Watch Demong compete in the men's Nordic combined individual normal hill event starting at 4:30 a.m. ET Wednesday on the NBC Sports Network, or watch online on NBC Olympics.
Watch the ski jumping portion on NBC Olympics here starting at 4:30 a.m. ET Wednesday and the cross-country portion here at 7:30 a.m. ET.