U.S. Nordic combined skier Johnny Spillane hoped to spend the final days of summer soaring off plastic-covered jumps in Norway. But after tearing his meniscus in July, it appears the three-time Olympian and 2003 World Champion instead will spend his time recovering from knee surgery.
"I did it jumping in the Fourth of July event in Steamboat Springs," Spillane said. "I just kept hoping it would get better on its own."
Spillane said the knee didn't bother him during a camp last month in Europe because the team trained mainly on bicycles. But once he returned to more strenuous jump training it became obvious something was wrong.
"Once we started training hard again, it was pretty clear something wasn't right," Spillane said. "If I did (plyometrics) then I couldn't walk the next day."
Doctors confirmed that Spillane had torn the meniscus in his knee, and Thursday he underwent surgery to repair the damage.
"It's a setback, but hopefully my recovery will go well," Spillane said. "I don't expect to lose any ground, but I will not be gaining any either."
The injury is just one of several the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team is facing as it heads toward the 2010 Olympic Games. The most serious is Eric Camerota who blew out his anterior cruciate ligament while training in Park City in July.
"The injuries to Johnny and Eric were unfortunate," said Dave Jarrett, U.S. Nordic Combined coach. "These guys are working hard, and hopefully they will be healthy before the Olympics."
Jarrett said Spillane's injury doesn't appear to be that serious and that he hopes the veteran is back with the team in a matter of weeks. He said Camerota's injury is more serious.
"We are pretty lucky because we have a lot of depth on this team," Jarrett said.
Jarrett said several skiers including Brett Camerota, Bryan Fletcher, and Alex Miller made big strides this summer and are expected to pick up for their injured teammate. A strong showing from several of the team's juniors also has encouraged the coach.
"All of our juniors (including Steamboat's Nick Hendrickson, Taylor Fletcher and Brett Denney) are hungry and we have several other skiers who have really stepped it up this summer," Jarrett said.
The entire team, including a small group of development skiers from Steamboat and coach Martin Bayer, will leave this week for a two-week training camp in Norway. The Americans plan to spend the week training alongside the Norwegian team, and another week traveling to several jump hills to prepare for the season.
"Our athletes have spent a lot of time in Park City and Steamboat Springs this summer, and they need a change of scenery," Jarrett said. "I think everyone on the team is excited about Norway and the chance to see some new jumps."
The coach also said the rash of injuries has not been a distraction for the team, and has actually been an eye-opener for many of the athletes who hope to land a spot for the 2010 Winter Olympics.
"It showed us all that things can happen quickly, and we have to be prepared for whatever is around the next corner," Jarrett said. "We have to be prepared for anything."