NPR logo Spillane Wins U.S.'s 1st Medal In Nordic Combined

Spillane Wins U.S.'s 1st Medal In Nordic Combined

The American Nordic skiing team reached a milestone at the Winter Olympics Sunday. Johnny Spillane won the silver medal in the Nordic combined, which is a mix of ski jumping and cross country. It is the first medal for the U.S. in the event, and only the third ever in Nordic sports.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

There was also an Olympic breakthrough, yesterday, for team USA. American Johnny Spillane raced to a dramatic finish on the cross-country track near Whistler, winning a silver medal in Nordic Combined. Thats the first American medal ever in that sport. From Whistler, NPRs Howard Berkes reports.

HOWARD BERKES: 29-year-old Johnny Spillane was a kick and glide away from a gold medal after 10 kilometers on the cross-country track.

(Soundbite of cheering)

But then Jason Lamy Chappuis of France rushed past, leaving Spillane with a silver medal.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Mr. JOHNNY SPILLANE (Olympic Nordic combined skier): I was pretty worried I wasnt going to finish. I was really tired. But I tried as hard as I could on the hill to get away. And I thought I was okay, and then about halfway up the hill I realized I was in a little bit of trouble and, you know, a silver medal is good, too.

BERKES: Its good enough for the first American medal ever in Nordic Combined, an event that included ski jumping earlier in the day. Nordic sports don't attract much attention in the U.S. Spillane hopes his breakthrough medal will make a difference.

Mr. SPILLANE: Hopefully, you know, this will help put Nordic Combined a little bit more on the map and so people don't just pay attention every four years -theyll start paying attention every weekend when were competing over in Europe.

BERKES: Within in hours, Spillane had one measure of greater exposure, a starring role in a VISA commercial.

(Soundbite of VISA advertisement)

Unidentified Man: What do you get when you combine cross-country skiing and ski jumping?

(Soundbite of music)

Well, if youre Johnny Spillane, you get a Nordic Combined medal.

BERKES: Spillane and others on the American Nordic team hope to make history again in the competition yet to come at the Vancouver Olympics.

Howard Berkes, NPR News, Whistler.

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