Spillane finishes second at World Cup | SteamboatToday.com

Spillane finishes second at World Cup

Steamboat Springs — Johnny Spillane returned to the World Cup spotlight Friday by leading the American team with a second-place finish at the opening event of the season in Kuusamo, Finland. — Johnny Spillane returned to the World Cup spotlight Friday by leading the American team with a second-place finish at the opening event of the season in Kuusamo, Finland.

— Johnny Spillane returned to the World Cup spotlight Friday by leading the American team with a second-place finish at the opening event of the season in Kuusamo, Finland.

It was the Steamboat Springs skier’s best finish since his historic gold medal at the World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy, in 2003. It also was a major comeback for a skier who has battled a series of nagging injuries the past three seasons.

Spillane held off Austria’s Christoph Bieler and Germany’s Eric Frenzel to place second in the 15-kilomter individual Gundersen event. Another local favorite, American Billy Demong, placed seventh in the final standings.

“This is kind of what we were hoping to do,” Spillane said from Kuusamo on Friday. “It wasn’t a special day. The jumping was OK, and I had a decent race : but there are still a lot of things to work on.”

Germany’s Ronny Ackermann was sixth after the jumping and then posted the 10th-fastest cross-country time to win the race with a time of 40 minutes, 54.8 seconds. Spillane was 13th after the jumping, but ran a smart 15-kilometer cross-country race to finish 13.4 seconds behind the German. Bieler was just 14.3 seconds back in third place, and Frenzel was 14.9 seconds back in fourth place.

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“I wanted to stay in control for my first couple of laps on the cross-county course,” Spillane said. “It’s a 40-minute race, so if you go out too hard, it can really hurt you at the end.”

Spillane said he never saw Ackermann on the racecourse. Instead, Steamboat native decided to play it smart. He used the pack to move up throughout the race, and then started picking off the skiers in front of him as he neared the finish line. Bieler latched onto Spillane somewhere in the early part of the race, and then used him as a pull. Spillane said he wasn’t really threatened by the Austrian skier as the pair neared the finish line.

The finish was Spillane’s best World Cup finish since December 2002, when he was second in a sprint and third in the individual event in Trondheim, Norway. It was his best international finish since the 2003 World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy, when he won the gold medal in the sprint. Demong, the only other American on the World Cup circuit, finished in seventh place, 25.8 seconds back. He was 17th after the jumping.

“We had a good first day. It was above our expectations,” coach Lasse Ottesen said. “I think these finishes will give us the confidence we’ve been looking for. Now, we know what we need to work on, and I think we can pick things up on the jumping side.”

“We had pretty similar days,” Spillane said. “Billy was off a bit on his first jump, but if we could have put things together, there could have been two Americans on the podium today.”

Putting it together in Kuusamo is exactly what the Americans will hope for when they return to the hill for a one-jump, 7.5-kilometer sprint event today.