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David Byrd | Vancouver 27 February 2010
American Nordic Combined skier Billy DeMong
American Nordic Combined skier Billy DeMong has been chosen to carry the flag in the closing ceremonies for the U.S. Team Sunday at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. The honor is just one of the amazing memories Demong will bring home from these Games.
It is certain that Billy Demong of the United States will never forget the Vancouver games. Not only did he and his teammates win the silver medal in the Nordic combined relay event, but he made history by becoming the first American to capture gold in the men's large hill event Thursday in Whistler.
Demong said winning the gold with teammate Johnny Spillane taking the silver was the achievement of a long-time goal. "Going out there, getting on the podium and then watching two American flags go up while the national anthem was playing, and then to turn and there was like - it seemed like two or three seconds, but it was probably two-10ths where Johnny and I made eye contact - it was like 'We did it,'" he said.
Shortly after winning his gold medal, the 29-year-old Demong surprised his girlfriend Katie Koczynski by proposing at the post-race celebration. Demong says he had the ring for a while, but thought Thursday was the right time to ask.
"Just kind of uh, just stepped off the cliff and said 'okay where's that microphone.' Made a short couple of comments and then put the mic down and dropped down on one knee and... I didn't really hear her answer, but she put it on willingly enough, so I took that as a yes," he said.
Katie Koczynski - a former U.S. skeleton competitor - said Friday that she had an idea that Demong might pop the question, but when it happened she was really surprised. "I was in line for the bathroom," she said. "He was like 'come over here' and I was like 'I gotta go!' You're a girl you think 'oh wouldn't that be romantic?' but then I was like 'he would never do that.' I thought we would be alone somewhere. I was in like total shock. I felt kind of ridiculous I couldn't even be emotional because I was in such shock."
As if winning medals and proposing were not enough, Demong - a four-time Olympian - was also named by his teammates to carry the U.S. flag in Sunday's Closing Ceremonies. Demong says that he looks forward to joining a roster that includes former Olympic champions Eric Heiden, Bonnie Blair and Dan Jansen.
"You know winning a gold medal on the field of play is one thing that speaks to your hard work and your dedication to being an elite athlete. But to be chosen by your peers, especially someone like me who has been to four Olympics, who grew up in Lake Placid , it's pretty special to be recognized in that capacity," he said.
Demong says that he has put aside any plans to retire. The skier says he wants to work with younger team members to ensure the U.S. program continues to achieve Olympic success.