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March 7, 1970 “I realized that something was wrong,” Bogataj would recall years later to Philadelphia Daily News columnist Rich Hoffman. “I tried not to go, tried to stop myself. But the speed was too big, about 105 kilometers an hour [roughly 65 miles per hour]. So I did everything I was able to do.”1 You might not know the name Vinko Bogataj, but you know who he is—or at least you know his crash. Earlier that day, Bogataj had left the chain factory in Yugoslavia where he worked, along with his three friends, to drive to Oberstdorf, West Germany. Growing up on a farm in a family with eight children, the 22-year-old set out on that snowy day to compete in a passion of his: ski flying. Despite working full time, Bogataj was fairly accomplished in the sport that would later become known as ski jumping. He competed more for fun than prize winnings, as his greatest career “paydays” included $200, a stove, and a color television.2 Little did he know as he set out for Oberstdorf that he would soon become famous—or infamous—depending on one’s perspective. Having already fallen once, Bogataj faced worsening weather conditions heading into his second jump. Now he faced swirling winds and new snow on the ramp. Race officials shortened the jump out of safety concerns. “These days, they wouldn’t even compete in those conditions,” Bogataj told Dave Seminara of Real Clear Sports 40 years later.3 Bogataj sped down the ramp, but he lost his balance before he reached the end of the platform. He placed his right hand down, but his legs gave way. He flipped off the side of the jump in a spectacular fashion. He somersaulted through the air, ripping through a sign that read OBERSTDORF at the bottom of the ramp, and nearly crashing into nearby broadcasters, spectators, and race officials.4 “I could’ve gotten up, I didn’t feel hurt, but they wouldn’t let me,” Bogataj told Seminara. “They insisted on carrying me off on a stretcher, which I wasn’t happy about because my family was watching on TV.”5 Introduction 2 / That’s Gotta Hurt His family would soon learn that Vinko would be fine, despite crashing at over 60 mph. Bogataj told Hoffman that the violent appearance of what happened had scared the medical staff and onlookers. “I didn’t feel any pain at first. I was just angry it happened. People kept telling me that it had to hurt. It looked so dangerous.”6 The video footage of that dangerous crash would immortalize Vinko Bogataj. As he would ask in a ceremony to honor the 25th anniversary of the show on which Bogataj’s crash was broadcast, legendary sports host Jim McKay asked the audience, “Do you know this man? Probably not. He doesn’t even own a credit card.”7 Each Saturday for 37 years, Wide World of Sports opened the same way. It featured video clips of a variety of athletic competitions to an instrumental musical fanfare. Host Jim McKay read a narration that became timeless: Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport. The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. The human drama of athletic competition. This is ABC’s “Wide World of Sports.” Vinko Bogataj and his spectacular crash were “the agony of defeat.” When Wide World of Sports first aired in 1961, producers ran footage of Irish hurlers colliding during “the agony of defeat.” In 1970 Dennis Lewin, the coordinating producer for Wild World of Sports between 1966 and 1996, and executive producer Roone Arledge decided to pair Bogataj’s crash footage with the words “agony of defeat.”8 Despite frequently changing the clips throughout the remainder of the opening montage, the show kept the footage of Vinko Bogataj to represent “the agony of defeat” for the next 28 years. It is difficult to imagine anyone thinking of Wild World of Sports without recalling Bogataj spinning wildly off the ski ramp in Oberstdorf, West Germany. Not everyone appreciated that fact, though. Doug Wilson produced the show in Oberstdorf for ABC. He recalled that leaders in the sport of ski jumping were never particularly happy about Bogataj’s crash being prominently featured in the Wide World of Sports opening montage. They believed it created a ripple effect week after week, causing hesitation among athletes considering the sport.9 Ken Anderson, founder of the website...


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MARC Record
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