After setting the pace for the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team for over a decade, Johnny Spillane has made the decision today to hang it up, and say so long to a decorated career that saw a World Championship victory and three Olympic silver medals in 13 seasons of hard work.
Spillane made his World Cup debut in the 2001 season and only two years later he opened up the 2003 season with three straight podiums in Trondheim, Norway. It wasn’t long until he would become the first American to win a World Championship in Nordic combined with his gold in Val di Fiemme that February. In Vancouver in 2010 he continued knocking down barriers for the U.S. Ski Team by taking home three silver medals, one of them backing up teammate Billy Demong’s gold, and giving the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team an unprecedented four medals in the games.
With only nine months before the next winter games in Sochi, Spillane decided to put his family first, and is looking forward to spending some quality time with his daughters in his hometown of Steamboat Springs, CO.
“Basically every spring I reevaluate where I’m at,” said Spillane. “I just got to the point where I didn’t want to be away from home anymore. There’s so much travel involved in what we do and I just didn’t like being away from my girls and watching them grow up on a computer. I’m really happy to be home now. I’m very satisfied with my career and now it’s time to do something else.”
Even if the news might be a little bittersweet, Spillane’s former teammates showed their appreciation and admiration for their fellow competitor and leader.
“Johnny believed in himself and believed in our ability and his ability to the point where he was able to break through barriers that Americans had never broken before,” said teammate and Olympic champion Billy Demong. “He paved the path for the rest of us to have the same success. His retirement is bittersweet. For sure I’m bummed that we’re not going to be together at the Olympics next winter. But, at the same time, I’m excited for him and I know that he’s moving forward in his life plan and taking a chance, taking a step forward in following another dream.”
“Johnny’s been a great teammate,” Demong added. “Not only did he lead the way for a lot of our success, but he’s always been one to do whatever he can for his fellow teammates, even when he’s hurt or struggling.”
Former teammate and current nordic combined Head Coach Dave Jarrett shared the same sentiment, “For me, the biggest thing with Johnny has been his leadership by example. He’s always the first guy in training and last guy to leave. He was always prepared. He was ready to go to work every day, every competition, every training session. He was willing to do everything and do all the work, to suffer, to go out in the rain, to go out in the cold, to go out in the snow – whatever it took.”
In the true fashion of a leader, Spillane left some words of encouragement for future skiers to travel the paths that he helped pave.
“To younger athletes, I want to say anything is possible as long as you’re willing to do the work and give yourself every opportunity to succeed by training hard and solely committing to what you’re doing,” said Spillane. ‘I’ll always be involved in nordic combined in some shape or form. It’s a big passion in my life. I want to thank the U.S. Ski Team and all of my teammates, coaches and technicians for doing such a great job over the years and really being behind allowing us to compete. Also, I want to recognize the support that people around the world gave me.”