Starting in 1984, Johnson had the world by the tail and shook it every chance he got. The things he pulled on the U.S. Ski Team would make the notorious Bode Miller look like a cupcake.
"We traded flesh once or twice," his former coach remembers. "It was like the bully on the playground. Once you stood up to him, he respected you."
But hard as he skied, Wild Bill partied harder. After a series of disappointing finishes, he was left off the 1988 Olympic ski team. By the end of the decade, six years after his gold-medal moment, his career was all but shot.
Then life got worse. His 1-year-old son drowned in a backyard accident in 1992 and, though he and his wife, Gina, would have two more sons, the marriage would collapse in 1999. He squandered the endorsement money. At age 40, Johnson did that most-American of things -- he attempted a comeback.
"I was broke," he explains of his longshot bid to make the 2002 Olympics at Salt Lake. "I needed to get back my wife and kids."
Johnson's life would be a tragedy in three acts. First, the fall from Olympic grace, then the loss of his young child, then the comeback that almost killed him.
Act III began near Whitefish, Mont., on a stretch of mountain called Corkscrew.
"I was just going fast, trying to win," he says now. "I needed to get points."
A horrible run it was -- a bad cocktail of inertia, impatience, metallurgy. The sound of bricks in a blender. The ax handle flew and flew, finally slamming into a fence. A 60-mph car wreck minus the car.
Here's the trivia question.
Who should pay for his health care and disabilities now that he's partially paralyzed as a result of his risky profession?
Read the rest of his story here.....