Colorado’s Spillane Makes History

By Brandon Penny — 02/14/10
The United States has never won a medal in Nordic combined. That is, until now. Four-time Olympian Johnny Spillane put an end to that when he won a silver medal in the individual normal hill/10km event. In Nordic combined, athletes ski jump first and then cross-country ski race. The sport has been a part of every Olympic Winter Games. But it took the U.S.A. 86 years to win a medal in the sport.
Over the past decade the U.S. Ski Team has built up its Nordic combined program. This time three Americans arrived at the Olympics with an actual shot at making the podium. Todd Lodwick, Bill Demong, and Johnny Spillane have all won World Championship titles.
After the ski jumping portion of the event, five-time Olympian Lodwick was in second place, behind Finland’s Janne Ryynaenen. Four-time Olympians Spillane and Demong were in 4th and 24th, respectively.
In the cross-country portion, Demong made up for his poor jump, and managed to stay in the top 8 for most of the race. Lodwick was in the lead for a few kilometers before France’s Jason Lamy Chappuis took advantage of his fatigue and passed him down the homestretch. With 100 meters to go, Spillane made his move and found himself 15 meters ahead of the rest of the pack. Lamy Chappuis skied ahead of Spillane in the final few meters, and beat him for the gold by 0.4 seconds. It was the sport’s closest finish in Olympic history. Lodwick finished just off the medal podium in fourth place, while Demong finished in sixth.
After he won, Spillane said, “To have an Olympic medal is something you always dream about. It’s because it’s every four years that makes it so special. You only have so many opportunities in your lifetime.” Spillane had to recover from injuries in five of the past six seasons. He acknowledged the years of hard work and perseverance it has taken him and his teammates. “It’s taken us a long, long time to get where we are today. It was very difficult for a long time because I kept having really good results but it was very sporadic.”
The trio of veterans have a combined 13 Olympics among them. On February 23rd, they will return to Vancouver to compete in the team event where they are expected to medal. February 25th, they will battle it out one last time in the individual large hill/10km event.