ESTO-SADOK, Russia (Feb. 12) – Nordic combined athletes converged on the RusSki Gorki Jumping Center Wednesday for the individual 10k Gundersen normal hill event, the first of three nordic combined events of the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games. Billy Demong pulled out the strongest finish for Team USA in 24th after jumping into 31st, while Germany’s Eric Fenzel won the gold medal. Demong mounted a fierce race but became tangled in a group of skiers during his second lap, which prevented him from making up his 1:33 deficit incurred in the jump round. 

"Things felt pretty good. With the jump, it’s hard to be too upset because I’ve been struggling this week on that small hill. I think it’s a little flatter than any hill I’ve ever skied before. I actually had my best two jumps today. The trial was really good and it’s hard to be too upset at the comp jump when it’s still my second longest jump," said Demong.

"In the race I felt great. I was skiing with Mikko (Kokslien) and working my way up and then I ended up getting caught in a big pileup on the second lap and spent the entire third lap trying to catch back up. The feelings up to that point were good. I have the capability to put in a good race now; I just have got to steer clear of trouble I guess."

In his first Olympic appearance, Bryan Fletcher finished just behind Demong in 26th after jumping into 41st, and brother Taylor Fletcher skied into 33rd. "First race is under the belt," said Bryan. "All the cobwebs are out now. It’s exciting. I’m still here with a smile on my face and I’ll go home happy." 

Six-time Olympian Todd Lodwick jumped into 34th, but pulled out of the competition in order to rest his shoulder, saying "the whole goal coming here after the shoulder injury is to make sure that we are a full team and that we are the strongest that we can be and they're relying on me to be 100% in the team event."

The event airs on NBC at 3:00 p.m. EST and can be streamed in its entirety on NBCOlympics.com. The next medal event is the individual 10k Gundersen large hill event on Wednesday Feb. 18.