Spillane wins first ever U.S. gold medal in Nordic skiing

Fischer is all smiles after Johnny Spillane, skiing on Fischer skis, became the first U.S. Nordic world champion, winning the Nordic combined sprint title at the 2003 FIS Nordic World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy.

Fischer is all smiles after Johnny Spillane, skiing on Fischer skis, became the first U.S. Nordic world champion, winning the Nordic combined sprint title at the 2003 FIS Nordic World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy. Spillane's win also gives him the honor of being the first U.S. winner of a gold medal in a Nordic event in Olympic or World Championships history.

SNEWS watched this Sunday morning as NBC covered Spillane's remarkable sprint over the final 250 meters to take the gold, with Ronny Ackermann of Germany second and Felix Gottwald of Austria third.

"Our wax team gave me great skis and I was riding Fischer Rockets," said Spillane who began the 7.5 km sprint in fourth after the jump, 28 seconds behind German racers Georg Hettich and Ronny Ackermann, and two seconds behind German racer Matthias Benz. Austrian skier, Felix Gottwald, began the day 35 seconds out, passing Spillane in a quick surge to the front pack -- no doubt he had little left to give when Spillane ignited the after-burners.

Spillane joined Gottwald, Ackerman and Hettich heading into the third and final lap. Spillane told reporters he was able to rest for about 30 seconds while holding onto fourth as the group slowed its pace for a while. "That gave me the break I needed," Spillane said. "I knew I had great skis and with that I was really set to go."

It is worth noting that only two other U.S. skiers have won medals in the history of World Championship and Olympic Nordic competition. Anders Haugen took a bronze in jumping at the 1924 Olympics in Chamonix, France. Bill Koch won two medals, a silver in the 30 km men's cross-country race at the 1976 Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria, and a bronze in the same event at the 1982 World Championships in Oslo, Norway.

SNEWS View: How fun! Great for the U.S. Nordic team. Great for Spillane and the Steamboat Springs, Colo., program. Great for the new coaching staff. And, great for Fischer! We had to giggle when Spillane, giddy from his win, kept holding up the Fischer skis, and kept going on and on about how fast his skis were and how great his waxing team was. You'd have thought the folks at Fischer had coached him, which we know they hadn't! We're still smiling right along with him.


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