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Nordic combined: Johnny Spillane breaks 86-year US drought

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(Read caption) American Johnny Spillane jumps in the ski jumping portion of the Nordic combined Sunday morning in Whistler, British Columbia. He finished second after the cross-country race.

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For the first time since 1976 – and the second time in Winter Olympic history – an American on cross-country skis has won a medal.

That Johnny Spillane's silver in the Nordic combined 10 kilometer race Sunday comes with a twinge of disappointment is a measure of how far the men's Nordic combined program has come. It was America's first-ever Olympic medal in the sport. Yet Americans Todd Lodwick and Bill Demong finished 4th and 6th, respectively. For a time during the race, an American sweep of the medals did not look out of the question.

Still, the 2-4-6 result was the best for any country in Olympic Nordic combined since 1984, when Finland went 2-3-4. The finish of Sunday's race, with Spillane 0.4 seconds behind France's Jason Lamy Chappuis, was the closest Nordic combined finish in Olympic history.

The result has been coming for more than a decade. America's current generation of skiers in a sport that combined ski jumping and cross-country has reached unprecedented heights. In the 2009 World Championships, US skiers won every individual gold medal.

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