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Idaho Skier, Olympic Legend Bill Johnson Dies

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SkiRacing.com reported Friday morning that Bill Johnson, who learned to ski atop Boise's Bogus Basin and went on to become an Olympic gold medalist, died Jan. 21, succumbing to years of struggle following a March 2001 brain injury sustained in a comeback attempt.

Johnson's family moved to Boise when he was 7, and the boy proved to be a natural on the slopes. He was also known as a bit of a rebel, and ran afoul of the law. When he was 17, Johnson was given the choice of time behind bars or time at a Washington state ski academy. Seven years later, he made the crazy prediction that he would be king of the hill at the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics, putting him in the rare group of athletes including Babe Ruth and Joe Namath "who predicted success on the biggest of stages," according to Ski Racing senior editor Hank McKee.  

When Johnson was awarded the gold on Feb. 16, 1984, no American had ever previously won a medal in the men's Olympic downhill.

After a number of hard years, Johnson crashed at the The Big Mountain near Whitefish, Mont., during the U.S. nationals. Thereafter, he struggled with health problems and most recently resided at an assisted living facility outside of Portland, Ore., where he died at age 55 on Thursday, according to a release from the U.S. Ski Team.

The video is somewhat grainy, but take a look at Johnson's golden moment from February 1984: