Today’s Illustration: The Agony of Defeat

Who:  Vinko Bogataj

  • Seventh in a family of eight
  • 22-year old Slovene, Yugoslavia
  • Forklift factory worker
  • “An accomplished ski jumper who had been competing internationally since he was 15.”
  • Drove to West Germany with three friends

When: March 7, 1970

Where: Oberstdorf, West Germany

What: The 120-meter ski flying competition

  • A 120 meter downhill platform
  • Fresh snow and strong winds
  • Vinko failed on his first jump.
  • It was Vinko’s second jump of the day.
  • Vinko says, “These days, they wouldn’t even compete in those conditions,”
  • “Vinko flew down the jump and for the first four seconds of the run, appeared to be in full control. Just a few feet from the end of the platform, however, Bogataj lost his balance, and placed his right hand on the track to try to brace his fall. But at that speed, he had no chance – his legs buckled and he catapulted dramatically off the right side of the jump, doing multiple summersaults right over and nearly into groups of officials, broadcasters, and spectators.” [1]
  • “I could have gotten up, I didn’t feel hurt, but they wouldn’t let me” . . . . They insisted on carrying me off on a stretcher, which I wasn’t happy about because my family was watching on TV” [1]

    In the pre-cell phone era, Bogataj’s family could do nothing but continue to watch TV and hope for an update on Vinko’s condition. “Several hours later, they heard on TV that I was OK,” Bogataj says. “They kept me in the hospital overnight, even though I just had a slight concussion.”

  • Vinko was not seriously hurt but was admitted to a hospital because of a concussion.
  • “. . . the incident was largely forgotten. He was already competing again later the same year, and although his international career was essentially over, he served as both an official and a coach, and continued to compete in regional competitions.”
  • ABC added Vinko’s failed jump to the opening of “Wide World of Sports” hosted by Jim McKay. “Unbeknownst to Bogataj, ABC began to use the footage from his crash to demonstrate “the agony of defeat” during its opening theme later that same year.” [1]
  • Wide World’s 20th-anniversary program — “Before the evening was out, Muhammad Ali came over to Vinko Bogataj, and Muhammad asked Vinko for his autograph,” [1]

Key Biblical Thoughts:

  • fame
  • victory
  • defeat
  • failure
  • success
  • trials
  • prominence
  • providence
  • agony

Other Information & Links:
1. Who Was That Wide World of Sports Agonized Skier

“Some in the U.S. ski jumping community still believe that ABC’s repeated use of the crash did irreparable damage to the sport. “ABC created a monster by creating a perception they never corrected,” says Ken Anderson, a former ski jumper who is the founder of the site, Ski Jumping USA. “The clip had a huge role in the downward spiral of the sport in the U.S. It made it impossible to recruit kids. Parents wouldn’t let them try it, and facilities were being eliminated because people were worried about liability.” No U.S. ski jumper has ever won an Olympic medal, and the U.S. jumpers at the 2010 Games had to essentially pay their own way, with no significant support from the U.S. Ski Federation.”

“. . . . Wilson and Lewin were preparing for Wide World’s 20th anniversary program and decided to fly Vinko over to appear at the event. “We put him up at the Waldorf Astoria, and sat him in the front row at the show, but he had no idea that he’d become a folk hero in the U.S.,” Wilson recalls.

During the gala event, Jim McKay introduced a video segment on Vinko’s life which carried the instrumental theme from St. Elmo’s Fire, with McKay’s narration offering both a question and a response. “Do you know this man? Probably not, he doesn’t even own a credit card.”

“Before McKay could even finish introducing him, the place went nuts,” Wilson remembers. The event was a who’s who of American sports, with Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Peggy Fleming, Nadia Comaneci, and the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team all in attendance. And yet, Vinko was clearly the crowd favorite.

“We had the greatest athletes of the last 20 years together in one room, but the biggest ovation of the night, by far, was for Vinko Bogataj,” Lewin says. Bogataj was also a favorite amongst the athletes, several of whom requested autographs. “Before the evening was out, Muhammad Ali came over to Vinko Bogataj, and Muhammad asked Vinko for his autograph,” Wilson says, recalling the surreal moment.”

PDF link to ReaclClearSports article

One thought on “Today’s Illustration: The Agony of Defeat

  1. How inhumane to bring Vinko over and not even tell him why! What was his true reaction, once the hoopla died out? And how amazing having Muhammad Ali asking for Vinko’s autograph! A true humanitarian.
    As for ABC Wide World of Sports, bid they ever recompense Mr. Bogota for using his image without his knowledge or permission? How did that make him feel, deep down.

    American corporations should be boycotted for doing things like this. It is not like they did not know who”s image they were misusing. They knew exactly who he was. But, because he was not American, they treated him like garbage.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.