Demong wins as rivals cry foul

By David Ljunggren

WHISTLER (Reuters) - Bill Demong of the United States won gold in the Olympic Nordic Combined individual large hill event on Thursday amid controversy over conditions during the ski jump section.

Gusting winds and heavy rain battered the hill as the leading contenders were jumping. That meant they put in unusually short leaps and started the 10 km cross country race with large penalties, ruling them out of medal contention.

Among those affected were Magnus Moan of Norway, Felix Gottwald of Austria and World Cup leader Jason Lamy Chappuis of France who is usually a very strong jumper.

"The problem is the wind and the snow ... in training I was always in the top four and after this (today's jump) I was 29th. So it was impossible for me to win a medal," said Lamy Chappuis, who won the individual normal hill event last week.

Moan described the jumps as "a joke" while the French coach said the International Ski Federation's decision to let the jumping continue was "a scandal."

The ski federation said the wind had been within permissible levels, adding that it was impossible to guarantee everyone would have exactly the same conditions.

Demong jumped before the winds really whipped up and ended up in sixth place at the start of the cross country race, 46 seconds behind leader Bernhard Gruber of Austria.

Demong and team mate Johnny Spillane caught up with Gruber at the 4 km mark and the three men then stayed together until about 600 meters from the finish line.

Spillane earned a third silver medal of the Games after second-place finishes in the normal individual hill and team events. Gruber, who won a gold in the Tuesday's team race, ended up third.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)