WHISTLER, Canada — Had the 10 km course been a couple of metres shorter American winter sports fans would Sunday have been acclaiming their first ever Nordic Olympic champion.
In the end, they had to settle for a silver - acknowledging the additional irony of the fact that French gold medalist Jason Lamy-Chappuis was born in Montana - while hailing Johnny Spillane, ousted at the line with bronze going to Italian Alessandro Pittin.
Even so, American fans saluted Spillane for what was their country's first Olympic medal in a discipline dominated by Europeans.
"Overall, I'm very satisfied with the result," said Spillane, who missed gold by an agonising 0.4sec.
It could have been even better for the Americans - American Todd Lodwick coming fourth as he missed bronze by 0.7sec.
Lamy-Chappuis gained his reward for keeping on right to the end as Spillane visibly tired.
"He slowed down a little going into the stadium," said the Frenchman. "Maybe my glide (to the line) was better than his."
But Spillane's Nordic showing was still the best by an American in a generation, Bill Koch having won a 30km silver in the 1976 Olympics at Innsbruck.
The only other American medalist in a Nordic discipline was Anders Haugen, who took a skijump bronze after competing in the 1924 Chamonix Games.
Haugen had to wait 50 years for his medal after a Games historian discovered a mistake in the points allocation with Norway's Thorleif Haug wrongly handed third place.Click Here!