Once helped into his motorized scooter, former Olympic champion and Mission Ridge Ski Team member Bill Johnson races through the halls of an assisted living facility in Gresham, Ore., hardly ever backing off the accelerator.
A series of strokes have all but immobilized the skier who once lived life on the edge, whose confidence, charisma and rebellious attitude made him a fan favorite at the 1984 Winter Olympics, where he became the first American to capture the downhill crown.
Johnson, who raced for the Ridge program when it was one of the top ski teams in the West in the 1970s and 1980s, attempted a comeback at the U.S. championships in 2001 at age 40.
Only, Johnson wiped out during a practice run, suffering a traumatic brain injury.
Johnson’s health has been slowly on the decline because of mini strokes. Then, nearly two years ago, he had a major stroke that stole the rest of his body.
Now, his speech is slurred, he can’t sit up on his own, his left eyelid doesn’t open and only his left hand is operational.