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Olympic Ski Champion Still in Coma

March 24, 2001

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) _ Former Olympic downhill champion Bill Johnson remained hospitalized in a coma Saturday, two days after losing consciousness when he crashed face first during a race.

Johnson was listed in critical condition at Kalispell Regional Medical Center. He sustained severe head trauma during an FIS downhill Thursday and underwent four hours of surgery.

Johnson’s mother, brother, sister, ex-wife and two sons maintained a vigil at his bedside.

``We are all very optimistic,″ Wally Johnson, his brother, said in a statement issued by the U.S. Ski Team. ``He’s a strong, tough guy and if anyone can make it through this, it’s him.″

Doctors said the 24- to 48-hour period after the crash was important for treating severe head injuries, and they were waiting for brain swelling to go down before reassessing Johnson’s condition.

Johnson, 40, was trying to stage a comeback with the goal of competing in the 2002 Winter Olympics. He won the 1984 Olympic downhill at Sarajevo after brashly telling rivals they were racing for second place.

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