Today in Sports History: March 21st

Vinko_bogataj_medium

(Vinko's famous topsy-turvy crash. Screen image courtesy of ABC)

3/21/1970 - The agony of defeat

For several decades, ABC ran a popular weekend series called the "Wide World of Sports," that focused on recreational activities such as snowboarding, racing, figure skating, badminton, logging, and surfing. Veteran ABC announcer Jim McKay provided narration for the show's trademark opening: "Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport: the thrill of victory...and the agony of defeat."

"The thrill of victory" was seamed with various inspiring images over the years, such as a team of little leaguers celebrating a victory. However, "the agony of defeat" had only one corresponding piece of footage for years and years: the sight of Vinko Bogataj's crash.

It was at the International Ski Flying Championships in 1970 that Bogataj (Bo*ga*tie) became a legend. The Yugoslavian ski jumper proceeded down the ramp on his third jump. And as he neared the end of the chute, Vinko slipped on the ice and lost all control. The video that became synonymous with "the agony of defeat" showed Bogataj head-over-heels, his arms and legs flailing as he crashed into the foot of the ramp, then tumbled onto the slope. Remarkably, he escaped with only a concussion.

As the years passed, the amateur skier gave up competitive jumping. For the 25th anniversary of the Wide World of Sports, ABC flew Bogataj to New York City. The former skier was stunned to learn that he was a cult icon overseas; in his own country, he was just a 38 year-old factory worker. ''Now I am used to it,'' he later said. ''Every human being must be glad he's famous at one time."

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