STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, CO (Dec. 23) - He said it could have been anyone's day. But Wednesday belonged to hometown hero Johnny Spillane (Steamboat Springs, CO) who, in front of family, friends and fans, solidified a nomination to the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team for nordic combined at Olympic Trials in Steamboat.
Three World Champions, led by Johnny Spillane, battle for an Olympic berth. (U.S. Ski Team/Tom Kelly)
Less than a mile from where he grew up, Spillane entered the cross country round at the grounds of Howelsen Hill sitting third behind fellow World Champions Todd Lodwick (Steamboat Springs, CO) and Billy Demong (Vermontville, NY), who finished second and third, respectively.
"Bill, Todd and I are so close that for sure any of us could have won. To know that you're at that level is a good feeling," Spillane said.
Lodwick led the first lap of the race, but in a move during the second lap Spillane moved from third to first, passing Lodwick and Demong, and held on the lead for the remainder of the race. On the final lap Spillane furthered his lead, charging a hill climb and nailing the finish to put his name on t he list of people headed for Vancouver. According to Spillane, to have that success in Steamboat meant a lot to him.
"Steamboat has had a great history for our sport, so growing up, the Olympics is always something you think about," Spillane said.
With each lap of the cross country course, the crowd cheered with excitement and anticipation for Spillane, who said he could probably name 95 percent of the spectators.
"It was awesome to see everyone come out this morning for the jumping and we had a great crowd for the race," Spillane said. "It's fun skiing around the course and having everyone yelling at you. It was a lot of fun to compete here."
Since his World Championship medal in 2003, Spillane has had to deal with many injuries, but knew none of it meant the end of his career.
"It was definitely very frustrating to have it happen so many seasons in a row. But I enjoy doing this so much, it wasn't something I was about to stop doing," Spillane said.
While the day did not finish the way Lodwick had hoped, he was still proud of his teammates and happy to be able to compete for his hometown.
"I think he shows that sometimes taking a little bit of a break can be better for you and what you do. We're all rising to the surface and that's a good thing." Lodwick said. "I can't say enough about the people here and the support they give."
Demong, who sat in second until the last leg of the race, said he's excited to have such a deep pool of talent on the team.
"It was a solid race and it was fun to go out there and ski with those guys. It was really anyone's race," Demong said. "I feel good, things are coming together and my fitness is good. I'm pretty psyched with where I am and it's just cool to have three guys at this level."
Demong also added that he was proud to see his teammate take the win.
"Johnny was able to summon the effort to really put the hammer down and it was good to see him and his effort to the finish. That really speaks to his level now," Demong said.
Olympic Trials continue Wednesday afternoon with moguls where one man and one woman have a shot at Vancouver.
2010 Olympic Trials
Steamboat Springs, CO - Dec. 23, 2009
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
Johnny Spillane felt good after the jumps. (U.S. Ski Team/Tom Kelly)
The three World Champions ski through the Steamboat rodeo grounds. (U.S. Ski Team/Tom Kelly)