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THE INSIDE TRACK

Skier Johnson Still in Coma After Crash

March 24, 2001|Associated Press

WHITEFISH, Mont. — Billy Johnson, the boastful Olympic ski champion in 1984, is still in a coma after crashing during a comeback attempt at 40.

Johnson, trying to win a spot on the team for the 2002 Olympics, sustained severe head trauma Thursday during a downhill warmup to the U.S. Alpine nationals that began Friday.

His condition was unchanged overnight, said Jim Oliverson, a spokesman at Kalispell Regional Hospital.

"He is stable, which is encouraging, but still critical," Oliverson said Friday. "They're going to be doing some additional tests this morning. But he's through the night, and every hour is a step in the right direction."

U.S. ski team spokesman Tom Kelly said Johnson was unconscious at the scene. He needed a breathing tube at Big Mountain Resort, and emergency-room doctors at Kalispell Regional did a tracheotomy. Surgeons later drained blood from his brain and left lung before his brain swelled.

"It's a matter of God and time," Kelly said. "They'll just continue to follow his progress. There's nothing more neurologically that can be done for him right now."

Johnson is most famous for brashly predicting victory at the Sarajevo Olympics, then backing it up.

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World super-G champion Daron Rahlves of Sugar Bowl, Calif., won the men's downhill in the U.S. Alpine nationals at Whitefish in 1 minute 24.87 seconds.

Kirsten Clark of Raymond, Maine, won the women's race in 1:28.54, followed by Picabo Street of Park City, Utah.

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