Behind The Gold: Alpine Gold Medalist Bill Johnson

Dec 23, 2013

Bill Johnson on the cover of Sports Illustrated after his win in 1984.

This Olympic champion called his shot, predicting Olympic gold in Sarajevo.

Hi, this is Tom Kelly and I’ll be right back with the Olympic story Behind The Gold.

Amidst rising tensions in the Balkans, the world gathered in then-Yugoslavia in 1984 for Sarajevo’s Olympic Winter Games. 

Wind, fog and snow delayed the men’s downhill, giving brash Oregon skier Bill Johnson time to boldly predict his win. Johnson, who came into the Olympics with only two Top 10 World Cup finishes - including a win in Wengen a few weeks earlier - rankled his European rivals. But on race day, he came through, taking gold for the first American men’s Olympic title in history. 

Johnson went on to win World Cups in Whistler and Aspen after the Games. But the fame and fortune he predicted never arrived. Nearly 20 years later, tragedy struck, as he made an ill-fated bid to qualify for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.

Ever the fighter, today, Johnson continues to battle for his own life. But his name is forever etched into the annals of history as America’s first great Olympic downhiller.


This is Tom Kelly with Behind The Gold. Only in Park City. Only on KPCW.


Behind the Gold is sponsored by Rosenberg Cooley Metcalf and the Utah Olympic Park 'Road to Sochi' events.