Hundreds of people lined the main street in the tiny village of Saranac Lake on Friday afternoon to welcome home gold-medal skier Billy Demong and other local athletes who competed in the Winter Games in Vancouver.
Saranac Lake and nearby Lake Placid, which hosted the Winter Olympics in 1932 and 1980, sent a dozen athletes to Vancouver, including two who won medals. Not bad for two villages whose combined population is about 7,600
Many of the athletes had moved to the Lake Placid region to train, but Billy Demong grew up outside Saranac Lake, in the rural community of Vermontville. He won a gold medal in the Nordic combined individual race and a silver medal in the Nordic combined team relay. The events feature cross-country skiing and ski jumping.
Amazingly, as a youngster, Demong competed on the same local cross-country-ski team with two other future Olympians: Lowell Bailey and Tim Burke, both of whom competed in the biathlon in this year’s games.
After the parade, Demong addressed a large crowd inside the town hall. “I feel like my life came full circle today when I drove up here from New York City …” he said. “This is the place where I grew up, in Vermontville, and at one point in my lived down the road from Tim Burke, three houses away and six miles or whatever.”
Demong, who will turn thirty this month, proposed to his girlfriend, Katie Koczynski. a few hours after he became the first American towin a gold medal in Nordic combined.
The other local medalist was Andrew Weibrecht, who won a bronze in the men’s super G slalom and then made the cover of Sports Illustrated. Lake Placid, where he grew up, held a parade in his honor last week.
Another local hero, Peter Frenette, is still a senior at Saranac Lake High School. Frenette, who just turned eighteen, was the youngest member of the ski-jumping team.
The other regional athletes were: Ashley Caldwell, freestyle jumping; Haley Johnson, biathlon; John Napier, bobsled; and Mark Grimmette, Chris Mazdzer, Megan Sweeney, and Emily Sweeney, luge.
You can read more about these local athletes on the website of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, Saranac Lake’s newspaper, which sent two reporters to the Olympics. Click here to read their coverage of the games.
Below is a video of Demong’s address to the crowd in the Harrietstown Town Hall.