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Legendary sports moment takes on a 'World' of its own for Slovenian athlete Vinko Bogataj

If there’s one thing sports fans around the world have in common, it’s the indelible memories that the games themselves have given us.
Credit: WFAA

If there’s one thing sports fans around the world have in common, it’s the indelible memories that the games themselves have given us.

Sometimes even memories we would rather forget.

But for one former athlete, his legendary sports moment took on a “world” of its own.

It was March 21, 1970 at the World Ski Competition in Oberstdorf, West Germany. Former Slovenian ski jumper Vinko Bogataj’s first jump of the day was merely an indication of what was to come.

“I was very confident and positive after the first jump. Everyone was jumping with a bit of reservation, I felt very confident and top of form,” said Bogataj.

Before Bogataj could make his second run of the day, the weather suddenly took a turn for the worst. High winds and ice built up on the end-run, forcing officials to shorten the jump.

“I ended up waiting for about 15-20 minutes at the top of the end-run. I was cold, I was not physically there anymore,” said Bogataj.

He fell on his first jump.

“After the first round and I saw young Vinko Bogataj jump, I said right then and there, this kid is an accident waiting to happen, it sure happened,” said former Olympic ski jumper Art Devlin.

“As I got to the radius something took my ski. In my mind, I thought I had enough time to the lip of the end-run, but I was about 100km (65mph),” Bogataj said. “From that point onward, there is no more memory about what was going on.”

Bogataj was carried off and taken to a local hospital, luckily sustaining only a concussion. But as often is the case in life, one man’s loss, is another’s gain.

“After our initial shock, it didn’t take us long to want to have that disaster become the ‘Agony of Defeat,’” said former ABC sports producer Doug Wilson.

The footage of his crash was incorporated into the opening sequence of ABC’s “Wide World of Sports.” The networks iconic sports show that was broadcasted from 1961 through 1998.

For Bogataj, it was indeed unfortunate, but yet a perfect representation for “The Agony of Defeat.”

“Only positive thoughts of ABC using the reel as the opening for 'The Agony of Defeat.' That brought me a lot of publicity, brought some good memories,” said Bogataj.

Today, new memories are evolving around yet another Slovenian athlete, Luca Dončić. He himself much too young to remember Vinko Bogataj, but nonetheless, Bogataj remains one of his most loyal supporters.

“When you watch the individual game, knowing that he’s able to score 40 points, shoot from 3-points from the most outrageous positions, it’s hard to believe that he’s one of us from Slovenia. A great sense of pride I dare say,” said Bogataj.

But for now, aside for recreational skiing and ceremonial duties at local ski events, Bogataj’s new passion is displayed throughout his home in Lesce, Slovenia.

The power of imagery is so ever present in Bogataj’s artwork, just as on this date, 51 years ago, his ski crash has remained etched in the memories of so many.