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Johnny Spillane

Johnny Spillane (born November 24, 1980) is an American athlete who competes in nordic combined, a combination event consisting of ski jumping and cross country skiing. Spillane is a world champion and three-time Olympic silver medalist. He announced his retirement for Nordic combined April 18, 2013.

Early life

Spillane was born to Jim and Nancy Spillane on November 24, 1980. He was raised in Steamboat Springs, Colorado and graduated from the Lowell Whiteman School. As a child, he lived only blocks from Howelsen Hill, where he saw ski jumping for the first time and became interested in trying the sport. Despite his early interest, and the fact that he first began skiing at the age of 2, he did not try ski jumping until he was 11. For the first couple years, he used alpine skis on jumps, not getting his first pair of jumping skis until he was 13. Johnny married wife Hilary, a photographer and designer in 2008. They welcomed first daughter Hadley in 2010, and second daughter Genevieve in 2012. Johnny is the brother to legendary Yampa-Valley fly-fisherman, Sam Spillane, known locally as "Dingleberry Gary".[1]

Athletic career

Spillane made the United States team for the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan but did not compete in any events. The next year at the 1999 World Championships he placed 32nd in the individual event and 37th in sprint. Two years later, at the 2001 World Championships, he placed 32nd again in the individual event but vaulted to 14th place in the sprint event. At his second Olympics, the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City, Utah, he finished 32nd in both sprint and individual events.[1]

Spillane won his first championship in 2003, securing first place and the gold medal in the 7.5 km sprint event at the World Championships in Val di Fiemme. In so doing, he became the first American athlete to win a gold medal at the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships. However, an injury prevented him from defending his title at the 2005 Championships. At the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, Spillane finished a disappointing tenth in the 7.5 km sprint and 30th in the individual. World Championships in 2007 and 2009 would continue to be disappointing for him as he placed no higher than 16th in any event. Spillane's coaches reported that although he struggled in the latter half of the 2009 season, they expected him to be ready and competitive for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada.[1]

2010 Winter Olympics

Johnny Spillane racing for his third silver during the 10 km individual large hill event

At the 2010 Winter Olympics, in Vancouver, Spillane competed in three events.

In his first event, the 10 km individual normal hill event, Spillane won the silver medal - the first American medal in the sport of Nordic Combined, and only the third American medal to be earned in any Nordic sport.[2] After the ski jumping portion of the event, Finnish competitor Janne Ryynänen was in the lead. Spillane, American-born French competitor Jason Lamy-Chappuis, and a number of other skiers raced hard to make up the difference with Ryyänen in the cross-country portion of the event. In the middle of the last lap, after Japan's Norihito Kobayashi attempted a breakaway and was caught, Spillane took a strong lead. However, he had overexerted himself and slowed down after entering the stadium where the race was to finish. Lamy-Chappuis was able to catch up and pass him in the final stretch.[3] The .4 second difference between their times is the closest finish in the history of Nordic Combined events at the Olympics. Despite the near win, Spillane told media afterwards that he was happy to have won any medal.[2]

In his second event, the 4 x 5 Team Event, Spillane helped earn America's second medal, another silver.[4]

In his third event, the 10 km individual large hill, Spillane won the silver medal, finishing behind fellow American Bill Demong.[5]


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