Spillane ends season on high note

Nordic skiers fare well in season-ending events in Norway

— The Nordic Combined World Cup season drew to a close last weekend, but not before Austria's Felix Gottwald added a pair of victories to his collection.

Gottwald won an experimental elimination event Friday and then repeated his efforts Saturday in a more traditional sprint event by collecting his sixth World Cup win of the season.

American nordic combined skier Johnny Spillane posted his best finish ever at the Hollmenkollen in Oslo, Norway, on Friday. His teammate Bill Demong led a solid American finish in a sprint event Saturday by finishing 15th. Todd Lodwick, who was disqualified in Friday's event, returned Saturday to place 16th in his final World Cup effort of the season.

Spillane's season, however, ended on a high note as the Steamboat Springs athlete jumped to ninth place in the experimental elimination format. Spillane then posted the 10th fastest cross-country time of the day to place 12th overall in the Nordic Combined World Cup event.

The elimination format is something relatively new in the nordic combined sport. It still blends the two nordic disciplines of ski jumping and cross-country skiing into one event, but in this format, the field is cut to 30 athletes after the jumping portion is completed, and these athletes compete in the cross-country portion that follows.

None of the other Americans in the competition jumped well enough to advance to the 10-kilometer cross-country skiing portion.

Spillane finished 3 minutes, 40 seconds behind winner Gottwald of Austria, who was second after the jumping. The second-place finisher was two-time World Cup champion from Norway Bjarte Engen Vik, who was 51 seconds back. Germany's Marco Baacke was third at 1:16.4 off the pace.

Other top American competitors were Demong in 39th and Matt Dayton in 48th.

Lodwick was disqualified for coming off the bar to jump too late.

"I'm so happy for Johnny because he has worked so hard, and this is a big breakthrough for him," coach Jan-Erik Aalbu said. "He has kept making progress all year, and in tough conditions, he jumped so well."

Competitors were faced with unpredictable wind in the jumping rounds, but Aalbu said Spillane was able to maintain his focus during the events.

"This is a great result for Johnny," American head coach Tom Steitz said. "He's been on fire lately."

In the season finale Saturday, Gottwald overcame 40-degree temperatures that created difficult waxing conditions for the athletes.

Gottwald was second after the jump but posted the second fastest cross-country time of the day in the one-jump, 7.5-kilometer sprint event.

Finland's Hannu Manninen was second at 28.6 seconds back and Norway's Kristian Hammer was third at 30.5 seconds back.

Demong finished 1:14.6 behind the leader and Lodwick was 1.16.1 back

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