See an Olympic Silver Medal
● By Alesha Damerville
Image from the Tread of Pioneers Museum
By Candice Bannister
2002 was the year that Nordic Combined in Steamboat Springs and the U.S. started to make its big move. At the 2002 Winter Olympics Salt Lake City, Utah, the U.S. team successfully moved up into world contention and earned a fourth place finish in the Team event. For Spillane and teammates however, falling just short of the podium was both devastating and motivating. That same year, in Trondheim, Norway, Spillane made the podium three times in three competitions. The finishes made him the first-ever Nordic Combined American to “podium” three in a row--a hat trick! That same year, Spillane was the U.S. Large Hill jumping champion, and later that year, Spillane won gold at the Nordic Combined World Championships in Val de Feimme, Italy. The win made him the first American Nordic athlete (including all the Nordic sports) ever to win gold at either the Olympics or the World Championships.
The historic win validated the U.S. Ski Team’s efforts and the sacrifices made by the dedicated athletes and coaches. Throughout the season, Spillane proved himself further by finishing in the top ten on ten World Cup occasions. In Europe, where Nordic Combined is a celebrated and a widely popular winter sport, Spillane became an international idol and highly recognized name. In addition to Spillane’s victory, U.S. Nordic Combined team members placed in the World Championships’ top five, and medaled in the World Cup circuit four times.
In 2004, Spillane won a Summer Grand Prix in Oberstdorf, Germany. In 2007,2008,2009, Spillane won titles at the U.S. Championships for three consecutive years. In 2009, Spillane won the number one spot on the U.S. Olympic Nordic Combined Ski Team in front of his hometown crowd in Steamboat Springs. He also had a World Cup win in Oberhof, Germany.
Then in 2010, at the Vancouver B.C. Canada Winter Olympics, Spillane won three silver medals in the Winter Olympics. Spillane made U.S. history by winning silver in the Normal Hill event (90-meter jump/10-kilometer cross-country race) on the first day of Nordic competition. The Olympic medal was the first in U.S. Nordic Combined history. Spillane then won silver in the Large Hill event, behind teammate Billy Demong. Demong’s gold medal win then became the first gold in U.S. Nordic Combined history. Spillane’s third silver medal was excitedly shared among members of the Team event. The team’s efforts at the 2010 Winter Olympics forever changed history and gave the U.S. Nordic Combined program international acclaim.
Spillane now lives and works in Steamboat Springs, while raising his family and traveling to serve as a commentator and announcer at various Nordic Combined competitions, including the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang.
For more from the Tread of Pioneers Museum visit http://treadofpioneers.org