MARCH 22, 17:20 EST
Skier Bill Johnson Hurt in Crash
By TIM KORTE
AP Sports Writer
WHITEFISH, Mont. (AP) - Bill Johnson, the 1984 Olympic downhill gold medalist, was critically injured after crashing during a race on Big Mountain Resort Thursday.
Wasn't there a movie made about him, starring one of the guys who plays a doctor on TV's "ER?" Seems I've seen this on TV.
For more, try http://wire.ap.org/
At least one TV network showed the footage on the evening news last night.
Support pours in for fallen skier
By DAVE REESE
The Daily Inter Lake
As Olympic gold medalist Bill Johnson lay in a coma at Kalispell Regional Medical Center Friday, support for him and his family continued to pour in from around the world.
Johnson, 40, was critically injured when he crashed during a downhill race Thursday at Big Mountain. He was scheduled to compete in the downhill of the U.S. Alpine Championships Friday at Big Mountain.
He remained in critical but stable condition Friday.
Surgery on Johnson Thursday relieved some of the pressure on his brain. Neurosurgeon Dr. Rob Hollis opened a portion of Johnson's skull and removed a large accumulation of fluid, according to hospital spokesman Jim Oliverson.
Johnson also had a severe cut on his tongue and lacerations from flying through two sets of protective fencing after the fall in the Corkscrew section of the downhill course.
Johnson's mother and other family members arrived at the hospital Thursday and Friday. Meanwhile, Oliverson was busy fielding calls from people around the world, wanting to check on Johnson's condition and offer their prayers to the family.
Robbie Knievel, son of famed daredevil Evel Knievel, called to check on Johnson, and ski racer Billy Kidd came down off Big Mountain to visit the family.
"It's obvious that Bill Johnson cuts a pretty wide swath of friends around the world," Oliverson said, flipping through several pages of a yellow legal pad filled with names and messages from well-wishers. "He's touched a lot of people's lives."
Johnson cannot have visitors except immediate family, and although racers from the national championships want to see him, Oliverson said it's his first priority to protect the family's privacy.
"I'm trying to keep everyone up on Big Mountain," Oliverson said, adding that the U.S. Ski Team management has done a tremendous job of taking care of Johnson's family. "One of their soldiers has been injured," Oliverson said.
On the Big Mountain, notes supporting Johnson were visible around the resort. ''Our thoughts are with you, Bill,'' someone scribbled on the large board that displayed results next to the medals podium.
Johnson was to compete in the national championship race and the Return of Champions race, which features former world champions. He had successfully completed two training runs on the Ursa Major downhill course before the crash.
Although the Flathead Valley has been basking in sunny spring weather, Johnson's wreck was not caused by poor course conditions, according to Tom Kelly, vice president of public relations for the U.S. Ski Team.
"I don't think we'll ever know why it happened," he said.
The downhill course, which starts in the Ptarmigan Bowl at the top of Big Mountain and descends through several tight turns, is not particularly difficult, racers say. In fact, few racers have skied out of the course, Kelly said. Course conditions were firm when Johnson went down.
The Ursa Major downhill course accommodates a wide range of skiers, from young hopefuls trying to make the U.S. Ski Team to world champions like Picabo Street and Daron Rahlves.
"It's the best downhill course we've had in the U.S. Championships in a few years," Kelly said. "It's always tough to find a course for such a diverse field; you have to reach a pretty happy medium."
Kelly has been amazed by the outpouring of support for Johnson from fans around the world. Johnson was receiving so many calls that the U.S. Ski Team placed a link on its Web site where people can e-mail their comments to him.
"It's actually pretty cool" the amount of support Johnson is getting, Kelly said. "We're getting a message every minute from all over the world, from people who know him and those who don't. He means a lot to a lot of people."
For updates on Johnson's condition, go to www.usskiteam.com or call (435) 649-6666. To send him an e-mail, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reporter Dave Reese may be reached at 758-4438 or via e-mail at email@example.com