Hall of Fame Class of 2019
On the eve of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics,
the U.S. Ski Team had never won a medal in the relatively obscure and counter-intuitive discipline of Nordic Combined, which involves a 350-foot flight on ultra-wide, 260-centimer skis in the morning, immediately followed by a cross-country race on the skinniest of skis testing aerobic endurance and athletic superiority.
What’s more, the U.S. had won just two Olympic medals total under the broader Nordic umbrella. The humble and soft-spoken, Steamboat Nordic Combined skier Johnny Spillane changed all that, winning three silvers in the 2010 Olympics, after having already won the U.S.’s first nordic gold in a World Championships seven years earlier.
He led the U.S. team from worst to first,
and set the table for talented teammates like Bill Demong and Todd Lodwick.
“We did it as a group,” says Spillane, who was more comfortable hunting and fishing than standing in the international spotlight.
“I happened to be the first,” he says, “but it was a team effort.”
Johnny Spillane was born in 1980 in Steamboat Springs and raised just a few miles from the town’s Howelsen Hill training facility. Spillane was the quiet leader of an emerging U.S. team that would go toe-to-toe
with perennial powerhouses Austria, France, Germany and Finland.
Spillane would compete in eight World Championships and four Olympics before his retirement in 2013. Besides his World Championship gold and three Olympic silvers, he recorded ten top 10 finishes on the World Cup circuit in 2003, won a World cup event in 2009,
and produced two other podium results. Spillane also managed to capture four U.S. national jumping titles
and one in Nordic Combined. He was the epitome of the big-event skier, rising to the occasion when the entire world was watching.
“I enjoyed the big events. I always skied up,” he says.
After his retirement in 2014, Spillane bought Steamboat Flyfishers, the same shop where he had spent considerable hours as a youth while not plying the Yampa River for trout. He has since added a second store in Utah, Trout Creek Flies, near the Green River.
While there are Olympic banners hung, you won’t find a Spillane “Wall of Fame” at the shops
“It’s not part of who I am. It’s all in my head.”
In the winter, when traffic slows at his shop,
Spillane travels nearly every weekend to the NBC Sports Channel and Olympic Channel studios in Stamford, Connecticut, where he handles the commentary for Nordic Combined and jumping World Cup broadcasts,
providing insightful, well-spoken commentary.
Spillane married his wife, Hilary, a photographer and designer, in 2008. They have three children, Hayley, Genevieve, and Waylon.
For his four Olympic and World Championship medals and for leading U.S. nordic combined efforts
from the back of the pack to the podium,
Johnny Spillane earns entry into the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame.
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