Vinko Bogataj is a former Slovenian ski jumper, born on today's date, 4 March, in 1948.
In 1970 Bogataj experienced a nasty crash at Oberstdorf flying hill in Germany, derailing at the take off ramp and flying down to the ground, missing most of the by-standing spectators and spruce stumps. He got away with a concussion and a broken ankle, and was back to the hills in the following season.
The crash did not make much of an impression in a European ski jumping context, and without much noise Bogataj eventually retired from ski jumping, switching to painting instead.
However, American ABC’s Wide World of Sports crew who was also present at the 1970 Oberstdorf event, made sure Bogataj’s crash wouldn’t go unnoticed. The footage soon found way into the title sequence of the programme, providing the “agony of defeat” part of the visuals in support of the opening statement: “Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport…the thrill of victory…and the agony of defeat…the human drama of athletic competition…This is ABC's Wide World of Sports!"
In 1981 Wide World of Sports celebrated its 20th anniversary in New York and Vinko Bogataj was invited to attend. It was only at this ceremony that he realised that he must have become quite famous in the USA. Especially by the end of the ceremony, when Muhammed Ali approached to get his autograph.
In 1997, Wide World Classics filmed another report on Bogataj, looking back at his role in the show.
The last appearance of Vinko Bogataj in the American media occurred in 2016, when ESPN published an interview with him, his daughter in the role of translator.
In contrast to Bogataj’s ski jumping fame in the USA, he’s now better known locally as an artist. Just a few months following his ESPN interview, Bled Castle, showcasing Bogataj’s art exhibition, wrote: “Did you know that besides his big love for painting Vinko Bogataj also used to be a member of the Yugoslav ski jumping team in his youth?... Welcome to the Tower Gallery. The exhibition of Vinko Bogataj’s paintings is open until the end of the month every day during the opening hours of Bled Castle.”
photo: Bled Castle, Facebook