Demong places 4th in World Cup two-jump, 15-K race

— Lahti has been good to us, American Nordic combined coach Tom Steitz said on Friday morning.

Steitz's sudden admiration for Finland came after learning Bill Demong posted a fourth-place finish in a two-jump, 15-kilometer race in the first World Cup event since the Olympic Games ended a week ago.

"It was a good day fun, really fun," Demong said. "But I'm also wondering how I sandwiched these good results around such a disappointing Olympics. I don't know "

Finland's Samppa Lajunen won the event in front of his "hometown" crowd. Lajunen is the hottest skier on the World Cup circuit right now after winning three gold medals at the Olympic Games.

Lajunen crossed the finish line 10.9 seconds ahead of Germany's Ronny Ackermann, and Finland's Jaakko Tallus was third.

Demong was the top American in fourth. Steamboat's Todd Lodwick placed 15th and Matt Dayton, who had the eighth-fastest cross country time, placed 30th.

World Cup leader Felix Gottwald of Austria was 15th after the jumping but had the second-fastest cross country time to move up to fifth in the final standings.

"It was impressive finish for Billy, especially since he moved up in the cross country standings," Steitz said.

Demong was ninth after the jumping but moved to fourth after the 15-kilometer race.

"I was in good position in the race," Demong explained. "I could see guys in front of me (two skiers were less than 10 seconds ahead) and I could catch them, ski behind them for a while and then lose them."

The skiers will have the day off and them compete in a Sprint event in Lahti Sunday. The World Cup Tour will then move to Falun for the Swedish Ski Games and a mass-start event March 9.

In a special jumping meet, which was also held in Lahti Friday, America's Alan Alborn finished 22nd and Steamboat Springs' Clint Jones was 27th.

Jones, who has just barely missed the last four of the last five World Cup cuts, grabbed the last qualifying spot, taking 30th place with a jump of 109 meters. He then posted jumps of 104.5 in the finals.

Martin Schmitt of Germany collected his first World Cup win of the season. Adam Malysz of Poland and Robert Kranjec of Slovenia followed him.

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