Spillane’s win historic for U.S., Steamboat | SteamboatToday.com

Spillane’s win historic for U.S., Steamboat

Steamboat skier jumps, races to 1st U.S. Nordic combined Olympic medal

Johnny Spillane shows off his silver medal at the Whistler Oympic Celebration Plaza on Sunday night. His win ended the U.S.'s 86-year Nordic combined drought at the Olympics.

— The U.S. Nordic Combined Team finally got the monkey off its back Sunday, when Steamboat's Johnny Spillane found himself in the spotlight on an Olympic-sized stage.

The Steam­boat Springs skier won the

first U.S. Nor­dic combined medal in Winter Olympic history, winning silver after a thrilling cross-country race in the Normal Hill Individual Gundersen event at the 2010 games in Whistler, British Columbia.

"I don't think it's sunk in," Spillane said after the race at Whistler Olympic Park. "But I think it will sink in (Sunday night) at the medals ceremony."

Spillane finished the decisive, heart-stopping cross-country race just four-tenths of a second behind Jason Lamy Chappuis, of France.

Adding in time differentials from the jumping portion, Spillane finished the 10K race in 25 minutes and 47.5 seconds, compared to 25 minutes and 47.1 seconds for Chappuis.

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Steamboat's Todd Lodwick finished fourth at 25 minutes, 48.6 seconds. He led a good portion of the race before falling back at the end.

"I sacrificed a little bit of myself for the good of the team," Lodwick said. "I pushed the pace to the point so Johnny could get ahead to the point where we could get the silver. I pushed the pace to the point where I left everything out there."

Spillane also led in the cross-country race, opening up a 20-yard lead on the final lap before Chappuis surged in the sprint to the finish and barely edged out Spillane for the gold.

The bronze medal went to Alessandro Pittin, of Italy, in 25 minutes and 47.9 seconds. Billy Demong finished sixth at 26 minutes and 5 seconds, giving the U.S. three of the top six finishers. Brett Camerota finished 36th.

Lodwick and Spillane did everything they could to put themselves in medal contention earlier Sunday in the jumping portion of what was the first Nordic combined event at the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Spillane placed fourth in the jumping portion, positioning himself just 42 seconds behind Finland's Janne Ryynaenen at the start of the cross-country race.

In a Gundersen event, jumping results determine start positions in the cross-country race. Ryynaenen won the jumping portion early Sunday and began the cross-country race 34 seconds before Lodwick, who was second after the jumping.

"It's kind of been a roller coaster of broken skis and anxious moments," Lodwick said after his jump of 101.5 meters. "But I think it proves that we as a team and athletes — we've been here before. It's not something to stress out about. It is what it is.

"It's nothing I can control," he continued. "Go out and do my best and as long as we do that like we've been doing all year, then as you can see by the leader board, results will follow."

The jumping conditions Sunday were difficult, with swirling winds at the top.

Camerota was 10th after the jumping and Demong was 24th.

Demong said he was unhappy with his jump but couldn't pinpoint a reason for his lower score. Still, when gazing at the leader board after his jump, Demong couldn't help but smile, seeing three of his teammates in the top 10.

Demong blazed past numerous competitors in the cross-country race to earn his sixth-place overall finish.

Spillane also wasted no time reeling in the leaders on the cross-country course. By lap two he was in the lead, along with Lodwick and a pack of other skiers who were pushing the pace. Ryynaenen fell on a hard downhill corner leading back into the stadium on the first lap. He got back up but lost valuable time and eventually fell off the pace.

Things stayed tight throughout. Down the final stretch, Lodwick, Spillane and Demong found themselves in a pack of racers vying for a medal.

"There wasn't a whole lot on my mind," Spillane said about the final stretch to the finish line. "I just wanted to get to the finish line, and I wanted to get there as fast as I could."

Chappuis cro­ssed the finish line first, but Spillane was able to hold off Pittin, who finished just ahead of Lodwick.

Spillane didn't have any immediate plans for his newly acquired silver medal after the race and preferred to look forward to the team event and the Large Hill Individual Gundersen.

Spillane's medal performance, and the showing by the U.S. team, sent a message that the Americans are in Vancouver to end the drought that has haunted the team in previous Winter Olympic Games.

"That's the good thing about this group," Spillane said. "We are all in a good spot, and there is no doubt that we will have more opportunities for medals."

Race to the finish

Sunday’s cross-country race was a thrilling, back-and-forth affair, as skiers vied for a medal in the first Nordic combined event of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

■ Pre-race start

Leader: Janne Ryynaenen

Todd Lodwick + 34 seconds

Johnny Spillane + 44

Brett Camerota +56

Billy Demong + 1:20

■ At the 2.5-kilometer mark

Leader: Ryynaenen

Lodwick + 6.6

Spillane + 8.1

Demong +26.2

Camerota + 26.4

■ At 4.3-kilometer mark

Leader: Spillane

Lodwick + 0.2

Demong + 17.9

Camerota + 38.7

■ At 5-kilometer mark

Leader: Spillane

Lodwick + 0.1

Demong + 10.9

Camerota + 51

■ At 6.7-kilometer mark

Leader: Lodwick

Spillane + 1.0

Demong + 8.5

Camerota + 1:05.2

■ At 7.5-kilometer mark

Leader: Lodwick

Spillane + 1.4

Demong + 2.8

Camerota + 1:23.9

■ At 9.2-kilometer mark

Leader: Anssi Koivuranta

Spillane + 0.2

Lodwick + 2.5

Demong + 4.6

Camerota NA

■ Finish

Winner: Jason Lamy Chappuis

Spillane + 0.4

Lodwick + 1.5

Demong + 17.9

Camerota + 2:09.5