Spillane wins Olympic Trials

Johnny SpillaneJust imagine the odds.

You had surgery followed by physical rehab the months of August through October. You didn’t start serious training until the second week of November. Not the greatest way to start an Olympic quest.

Yet, that’s the way the story came to life today (Dec. 23) as nordic combined skier Johnny Spillane, a Steamboat Springs native, who grew up just blocks away from the jumps at Howelsen Hill, took the victory in a special one-time Olympic Trial event. And to the victor go the spoils, as Spillane has guaranteed himself a spot on the U.S Olympic Team heading to Vancouver in less than two months.

Another Steamboat local, Todd Lodwick, on target to make his fifth Olympic team, was leading following the single jump at Howelsen Hill with a solid jump of 123 meters (the Hill record is currently 126.5 meters). Spillane was third to start the cross country race, as his jump was 120 meters.

After the jumping, it was Lodwick who would carry the lead going into the ski race, with Billy Demong second and Spillane in third only nine seconds back in the Gundersen start format.

With the start and finish at Steamboat’s rodeo grounds—the top 15 combined athletes in the U.S. raced four laps on a 2.5 km loop, which winds up and down along the nearby hillside. It’s a tough course where skiers are never really able to recover, while the cheering audience get a full view of the action.

Spillane caught Lodwick and Demong in just over 1 k into the race. The battle was then on. It was a seesaw affair that saw Spillane take the lead for good after the second lap. “I knew it was going to be a very close battle between the three of us,” Todd Lodwick said after the race. “We knew it would be a bunch sprint to the finish, but Johnny showed the best tactics out there today.”

Spillane, who was a 2003 world champion winning the Nordic combined world sprint title, was thrilled at the finish. “What a great start to the season, and I am glad to have this over. Now, I can focus fully on preparing for Vancouver,” he said.

In the end Lodwick finished second, while Demong was in third position overall.

As mentioned above, one of the amazing, feel-good parts of the story is the fact that Spilliane was not training during the months of August-October, as he was rehabbing from a torn medial meniscus, and actually began his real training the second week of November. “For sure I am still not 100%, but one good thing was the rehab forced me to rest up and have a lot of recovery time,” added Spillane.

Friend Todd Lodwick agrees. “It just shows how taking off some time after a tough injury is often the best thing you can do.” In speaking with Lodwick after the race he told SR that he was troubled today a bit by his breathing at this his first race back at altitude in a while. His asthma also contributed to his skiing, which, as he put it, was ”not as well as I would have liked.”

For Spillane, it was a day to savor. His Olympic dreams had come true.

NBC Sports will carry the event on Dec. 26th at 2:30 PM Eastern time.

By:    Peter Q. Graves

2010 Olympic Trials
Steamboat Springs, CO – Dec. 23, 2009
Nordic Combined

1. Johnny Spillane, Steamboat Springs, CO (3,1) 25:06.0
2. Todd Lodwick, Steamboat Springs, CO (2, 2) +3.0 seconds
3. Billy Demong, Vermontville, NY (1, 4T) +12.0
4. Brett Camerota, Park City, UT (4, 8) +2:26.0
4. Bryan Fletcher, Steamboat Springs, CO (8, 7) +2:26.0
6. Taylor Fletcher, Steamboat Springs, CO (11, 4T) +2:35.0
7. Nick Hendrickson, Park City, UT (12, 3) +2:43.0
8. Carl Van Loan, Webster, NH (6,9) +3:47.0
9. Brett Denney, Steamboat Springs, CO (13, 6) 3:50.0
10. Alex Glueck, Steamboat Springs, CO (5, 11) +3:52.0



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