U.S. gets first medal in Nordic combined

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Jump off a hill in the morning, do some cross-country skiing in the afternoon. That’s what goes into the Nordic combined, a sport that’s been part of the Winter Olympics since 1924.

And on Sunday, an American finally won a medal.

Johnny Spillane snagged the silver and Todd Lodwick narrowly missed joining him on the podium, finishing fourth. Spillane nearly got the gold, finishing a mere four-tenths of a second behind Jason Lamy Chappuis, who was born in Missoula, Mont., but has always raced for France.

“After 86 years of trying we are actually legitimate,” U.S. coach Tom Steitz said. “How do you boil up 86 years of frustration? You don’t. Everybody starts crying. We are all going to sit around tonight and drink champagne and touch the medals.”

Could this be a turning point for the sport? Will Spillane’s silver bring a new awareness that makes it the thing all the cool kids are doing?

“It’s not like after-school soccer,” Steitz said, “but we will pick up more kids for sure.”

BIATHLON — Tim Burke and Jay Hakkinen were supposed to challenge for medals. Then came a heavy, wet snowfall that was tough enough to undo Norwegian great Ole Einar Bjorndalen as well.

Bjorndalen, winner of a record nine biathlon medals, had the worst finish of his Olympic career — 17th. His three penalties from the prone position matched the most of all 87 competitors, and his four total penalties tied for second most.

Burke, the first U.S. biathlete to lead the World Cup standings, wound up 47th. Hakkinen was 54th.

Vincent Jay of France won the event, ahead of Emil Hegle Svendsen of Norway and Jakov Fak of Croatia.

SPEEDSKATING — Kristina Groves gave Canada hopes for gold in the women’s 3,000 meters, but wound up with the bronze, beaten by Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic and Germany’s Stephanie Beckert.

Sablikova also is favored to win the 5,000 meters.

Nancy Swider-Peltz Jr. was the top American, finishing ninth.

WOMEN’S HOCKEY — The only question was whether the United States would clobber China as badly as Canada’s 18-0 wipeout of Slovakia.

No, but it was close.

The Americans won 12-1, with Jenny Potter notching her first Olympic hat trick and becoming the leading scorer in U.S. Olympic history.

DOWNHILL — The Alpine schedule was wiped out yet again, this time keeping the women from a training session because of heavy rain and snow.

The delays continue to be good for Lindsey Vonn, who needed time off to get over a bruised right shin.

Vonn’s husband told The Associated Press that she went through a rigorous slalom training session, her biggest test since being injured Feb. 2.

“Her focus has definitely changed from, ‘Am I going to race?’ to ‘I’m definitely racing, and I need to get the rust off and try to get the speed back,’” Thomas Vonn said.

WOMEN’S MOGULS — Hannah Kearney won America’s first gold medal of the Vancouver Olympics late Saturday night, winning the women’s moguls by defeating Canadian Jenn Heil.

Kearney scored 26.63 points in the final to defeat Heil by the wide margin of .94 points. American Shannon Bahrke took bronze to add to her silver medal from 2002.

Kearney’s win came after a 22nd-place finish at the Turin Olympics.