Steamboat’s Johnny Spillane flying high
Local skier’s whirlwind tour thrusts spotlight on sport, Steamboat
February 16, 2010
Whistler, British Columbia — As he sat behind the stage at the Whistler Olympic Celebration Plaza on Sunday waiting for the medal ceremony to begin, the realization that he had just won an Olympic silver medal for the Nordic combined event finally began to set in for Johnny Spillane.
"I think that's when it really hit
home," Spillane said. "The medals ceremony was a hell of an experience, and it's something that I will never forget."
A few moments later, Spillane emerged from the side of the stage along with Olympic gold medalist Jason Lamy Chappuis, of France, and bronze medalist Alessandro Pittin, of Italy. The crowd erupted, many of the spectators waving American flags as the Steamboat Springs native strolled across the stage smiling and waving to the thousands of fans who packed nearly every inch of the plaza.
"It was fun to see everyone out there," Spillane said. "This crowd has a hometown feeling. There were so many people out there cheering, and I knew a bunch of them."
Sunday night's medals ceremony marked the start of an all-night, post-medal experience for Steamboat Springs' latest Olympic medal winner and America's overnight media sensation.
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After the medals ceremony, Spillane headed to the United States Ski and Snowboard Association house for more public appearances, then it was off to TV interviews. Spillane recorded segments for seemingly every NBC affiliate in the country. Teammates Billy Demong and Todd Lodwick joined him at 4 a.m. Monday for an appearance on NBC's "Today Show," and by the time that ended, it was off to the airport to catch a flight to Park City, Utah, where the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team will prepare for the Feb. 23 team event at Whistler Olympic Park.
"I've been really busy since the medal ceremony," Spillane said, perhaps a bit of an understatement.
Spillane slept for a little more than an hour on the drive from Whistler to Vancouver for the "Today Show" interview. Other than that, there hadn't been much time for rest. He did get to meet and hang out with hockey legend Wayne Gretzky while at the "Today Show." But no call yet from President Barack Obama, Spillane reported Monday afternoon.
In his typical fashion, Spillane seemed to take it all in stride.
"I'm not really surprised by all the attention," Spillane said. "I think we (the members of the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team) were on the radar before the event, and a lot of people were just waiting for something to happen."
Spillane's win also has heaped attention on the city of Steamboat Springs. Take, for instance, Monday's 9News telecast that featured a live interview from the base of Steamboat Ski Area with Winter Sports Club Executive Director Rick DeVos.
The attention on Spillane, Demong and Lodwick likely will ramp up again as next week's team and individual Nordic combined events approach. And that's just fine with Spillane.
"It's just the way it works," he said. "It happened here at the Olympics and everything was ready to go. They put us through the wringer for sure, but that's OK. We were ready for it."
He also made it clear that their work isn't over. The squad has more medals in sight, and Spillane won't complain if that means more attention and less sleep.
"The whole experience has been great, and I'm just glad that our sport is getting noticed," he said.