Life on the Summit: Checking in on a 1984 Winter Olympics champion
April 4, 2014
It was about this time 30 years ago, just after the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics, when we first met Bill Johnson.
Fresh from his gold-medal downhill win, Bill was out at Copper Mountain Resort to compete in the U.S. Alpine Championships — doing his laundry in Village Square Condos.
Spike! and Mary, then owners of the Copper Cable newspaper, got word that Bill was in the laundromat washing clothes.
Sure enough, there he was.
Responding to a Spike!'s opening comment — that the champion downhiller was doing chores like a "regular" guy — Bill said, "I'm not a regular guy anymore."
Right he was.
Life for Billy has not been like that of many Olympians, one of smooth roads paved with good fortune.
Today, his road is filled with challenging potholes, making travel around the assisted living facility in a wheelchair difficult.
The Oregonian's popular columnist John Canzano, who's written several accounts over the years, most recently on Feb. 15, updated Billy's story.
John's initial paragraphs will make you want to read the rest of the Billy Johnson story:
"The man who lives at the end of the second-floor hallway, Room 48, of the Regency Gresham Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Facility, is locked onto me with the only good eye he has left. He has a brain injury. There have been strokes, too. He's lost the ability to speak. His left eyelid is shut. And we are alone.
"Bill Johnson has his mouth open.
"He'd like me to feed him."
To read the full, very moving story about Bill, visit http://tinyurl.com/ksv5dyq.
And seeing as how we're a caring, committed snow sports community, let's send Bill some cards. His address is 5905 S.E. Powell Valley Road, Gresham, OR 97080.
In other news from the slopes of life, Breckenridge's Jake Black grabbed a first place in the inaugural Slash Snowboards' Slash & Burn Banked Slalom recently at Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs.
Howelsen Hill is best known as an Olympic training ground for skiers and boasts over 70 Olympians in Alpine and Nordic ski events.
"It really came together randomly," event creator and organizer Alex Pashley told Powder magazine.
"The course was super fun. It was definitely a quick, curvy snake run," said Jake Black. "There were a couple gnarly turns where I thought I was going down, but it was really fun."
Jake, 25, had the fastest times of the day in both of his runs.
In the second run, he beat his first run time of 28.36 seconds and shaved his time down to 27.72 seconds for the win.
Jake is the son of Mark "Blackie" Black and Annie Emich. His brothers are twins Hunter and Zach.
Taking second was Olympic Team member Justin Goto Reiter.
Both Jake and Justin are Summit High School grads.
In some more Spike! and Mary relative news, out from Minneapolis were Betsy (Staby) and Michael Sluis, who skied Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Copper.
With them were Angie (Pehle) and husband Aaron Bean, who own the Greenwood Marina on Lake Minnetonka.
They all got their start on Buck Hill, and Angie, now a mom, competed with Lindsey Vonn.
Spike! offers congrats to Lucy Kay for being named the CEO of GoBreck, the destination marketing organization for the town of Breckenridge.
We've known Lucy since her early days doing marketing at Copper and later heading the Breckenridge and Keystone ski areas for Vail Resorts.
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