Steamboat to celebrate Spillane's gold

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— The city of Steamboat Springs and Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. will honor native son Johnny Spillane Monday in conjunction with St. Patrick Day's festivities in Gondola Square.

Spillane, who grew up in Steamboat Springs, captured the gold medal at the Nordic Combined World Championship Feb. 28 in Val de Fiemme, Italy. It is the first time an American has won gold at either the Olympics or the world championship.

The post-race photograph of teammate and fellow Steamboat native Todd Lodwick carrying Spillane -- with the word "Steamboat" boldly stitched across Spillane's hat -- was wired around the world, providing the community with a sense of pride.

Many living here played important roles in raising and coaching both Spillane and Lodwick.

Plans for a party to honor Spillane and the members of the U.S. Nordic A and B teams were in the works from the day Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Director Rick DeVos got word of Spillane's victory.

"It's a great opportunity to have those boys come home," DeVos said. "I know the entire community is so excited about this. It's hard to even understand the perspective of what this is, for him to win the first Nordic world championship gold. If you could have seen the look on those guys' faces that he passed, they looked over and were like, 'what is going on?'"

The Winter Sports Club, Ski Corp., the city of Steamboat Springs and the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association have put together the party in Gondola Square, which starts at 5 p.m.

City Council President Kathy Connell said plans include a presentation and an autograph session with Nordic team members. The Steamboat Pilot & Today has framed portraits of the front page and sports page from the March 1 edition announcing Spillane's win that will be presented to him. The front page includes the photo of Lodwick carrying Spillane that was shot by Agence French Presse photographer Alessandro Bianchi.

"I think everyone shares a little piece of helping Johnny attain this," Ski Corp. Public Relations Director Mike Lane said. "Johnny has grown up here and been involved with the Winter Sports Club, and it's a really big deal to folks that he's done well."

Steamboat has a rich tradition of producing elite athletes, prompting some to wonder what's in the water, Connell said.

Spillane is the latest in a line of homegrown athletes who have attained success, but his is the biggest accomplishment yet in the sport of Nordic combined.

"Nordic is our heritage," Connell said. "It's huge and let me tell you why: There has never, ever been another world champion.

"We need to preserve that history and that recognition. The Nordic team is so spectacular."


--To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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