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Skier Billy Demong topped off a day in which he won two medals in Nordic combined — including the first U.S. gold medal in the sport — by popping the question to his girlfriend, Katie Koczynski, on bended knee. She said yes.
By
TODAY contributor
updated 2/26/2010 10:14:16 AM ET 2010-02-26T15:14:16

If you say good things come in threes, Billy Demong is not going to argue with you. In the space of just a few hours, he won a gold medal, was named the flag bearer for Team USA, and got engaged.

“It’s just silly at this point,” the Nordic combined star told TODAY Friday morning as he stood in the sleet in a thin, U.S. Olympic Team jacket, his hair wet and slicked down and a perpetual smile plastered on his face.

Around his neck hung two Olympic medals. One of them was gold and barely half a day old. He won that Thursday in Nordic combined, the first gold medal ever won by an American in the event that combines ski jumping with cross-country skiing. The other medal was silver, and Demong and three teammates won it Wednesday in the Nordic combined team competition — also a first for U.S. skiing.

Sharing Demong’s joy was Katie Koczynski, who had been his fiancee for less time than he had been an Olympic champion. Demong had been carrying the ring with him all day Thursday; it was in the backpack he took with him when he won the gold medal.

“That thing had been wearing a hole in my backpack all day yesterday,” Demong told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira, Al Roker and Ann Curry as they huddled around the show’s fire pit.

Ring bearer
Later, Demong told TODAYshow.com that the ring had originally been his great-aunt’s. It had passed to his mother and then to him, and for the past two months he’d been carrying it with him, waiting for the right time to pop the question to Koczynski, whom he’d been dating since 2007.

After the Nordic combined team won silver on Wednesday, Demong decided he would propose Thursday, after his big individual race. As he was on his way to his historic victory, it was in the back of his mind.

“A little part of me really wanted to win to make it that much better, but I don't think it was really going through my mind too much,” he said.

Demong said when it came time to propose Thursday night at the team’s headquarters, he still wasn’t sure. So he looked to team leader Johnny Spillane, who had won a silver in an earlier Nordic combined individual event, for advice.

“I didn’t know if I should do it, but Johnny gave me the thumbs-up,” Demong said.

So he got on a stage and called Katie up to join him. After 30 months of going steady, she expected a proposal — but not right there and then, and definitely not with the whole team watching.

SpillaneCreative.com
Billy Demong took girlfriend Katie Koczynski completely by surprise Thursday night when he proposed to her. The couple have been dating for two and half years.
“I really had no idea what he was doing. It was out of character for him,” Koczynski told TODAY. “I thought he’d be the type to leave it somewhere and have me find it. I didn’t think he’d do something so public.”

Once she was on stage, Demong went all old-school on her, getting down on one knee to ask for her hand in marriage. She accepted on the spot.

Flag bearer
And in the middle of the proposal process, Demong learned that the members of the entire U.S. Olympic Team had voted him the honor of carrying the nation’s flag in Sunday’s Closing Ceremony.

“That’s almost a little bit more of an honor to me than this,” he said, holding up his two medals, “in that it was chosen by my peers, by the athletes that I’ve grown up around in these winter sports. I’m a little nervous, but I’m pretty psyched about it.”

It capped a phenomenal two weeks for Demong and the Nordic combined team, which also includes Spillane, Todd Lodwick and Brett Camerota. From the beginning of the Winter Games in 1924, the United States had never won a medal in any combined event. For most of the history of the Olympics, the team wasn’t even a factor. But this year, after a long and determined developmental process, the team was ready.

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Spillane struck first, taking second in the first individual event. Then on Wednesday, Demong skied the last leg of the cross-country relay to win silver in the team event. He capped it off on Thursday with the gold as Spillane took the silver behind him. In all, the team finished with four medals in three events.

“It’s pretty crazy, and I think we’re still trying to grasp all we’ve done the last couple weeks, but it started with Johnny’s silver medal in the first event and we just kind of kept the momentum going,” Demong said.

As for the wedding, no date has been set. But Koczynski said that with all that’s happened in the past two weeks, the ceremony will be a snap to plan.

“After all of this, there’s going to be no worrying about tablecloth colors and place settings,” she said.

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Video: Nordic medalist scored gold and proposed

  1. Closed captioning of: Nordic medalist scored gold and proposed

    >> all right, al, thank you. coming up on thursday, it was a terrific day for billy demong, the u.s. nordic combine athlete won not one, but two medals, including the first-ever gold for an american in his sport. he was named the flag bearer for the u.s. team in sunday's closing ceremony . oh, and by the way, we might want to mention, he also got engaged last night.

    >> wow!

    >> billy, good morning. congratulations.

    >> thank you very much.

    >> it's great to have you. we should take this thing one at a time. first of all, tell us about the competition and your reaction to winning.

    >> well, i don't know if you remember, but when we were here a couple weeks ago, we talked about what a team we were and how we worked together, and yesterday was an exemplary performance in that regard. we started the day on a high note with johnny and i jumping into contention and then went out with a game plan to race together to go one, two. and in the race we went back and forth and back and forth and ended up going one, two, while teammate todd lodwick kind of held the rest of the world at bay about 45 seconds behind us. so, that was the beginning to a really long, fantastic day.

    >> and you made history in this event. americans have never medaled and now you've got four.

    >> yep. pretty crazy, and you know, i think we're still trying to grasp all that we've done in the last couple weeks, but it started with johnny 's silver medal in the first event, and we just kind of kept going and going.

    >> and you were given a high honor by your teammates. you are going to be the flag bearer for team usa .

    >> yeah, that's what i heard.

    >> for the closing ceremonies . you must be very proud.

    >> you know, i think that's almost a little bit more of an honor to me than this in that it was chosen by my peers, by the athletes that i've grown up around in these winter sports , and i'm a little nervous i'll trip, but i'm pretty psyched about it.

    >> if that wasn't enough for you to tear up, as you're doing now, you also made a major decision, actually a proposal last night.

    >> i did.

    >> want to tell us the details?

    >> about five minutes before -- you want to come out here, katie?

    >> oh, she's here! oh, hello.

    >> what's your name?

    >> hi.

    >> what's your name, dear?

    >> katie.

    >> welcome! how'd he do it?

    >> well, he called me up to the stage at the ski team house and just got down on one knee and proposed.

    >> oh, my. no one will probably ever get a proposal quite like that.

    >> that's right. from the olympic rings to an engagement.

    >> it better be gold.

    >> luckily, she said yes.

    >> i didn't know how she'd do it, but johnny gave me the thumbs up, and that thing had been wearing a hole in my backpack all day yesterday, so --

    >> oh, wow.

    >> those are from me.

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