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Big Mountain, Mont. Mar. 22, 2001 (USSA)–Olympic champion Bill Johnson remains in extremely critical but stable condition following surgery for injuries suffered in an accident at the Chevy Truck U.S. Alpine ChampionshipsThursday at The Big Mountain in Montana. Johnson, the 1984 Olympicdownhill champion, underwent surgery at Kalispell Regional MedicalCenter for head trauma.
Johnson, who has been in a season-long comeback bid, was navigating aright turn through a section of course known as the Corkscrew, when helost control and impacted the snow hard before sliding throughprotective fencing. He was treated at the scene for head trauma andtransported by Alert medical helicopter to KalispellRegional Medical Center, about 20 miles south.
According to Dr. Keith Lara, director of emergency medical services atthe hospital, Johnson suffered a subdural hematoma and diffused swellingof the brain. “The fortunate thing is that Dr. (Rob) Hollis was able toperform the neurological surgery quickly. Now it’s just a matter of Godand time. He’s extremely critical, butneurologically stable at this time.”
Upon arrival at the hospital, doctors worked to stabilize his airway andperformed a CT scan before he went into surgery shortly after noon. Theneurological surgery, which involved draining blood from his head andleft lung, was completed around 4:00 p.m. Additional surgery continuedfor lacerations on his tongue. He alsosuffered lacerations to his arms and legs.
The accident occured shortly before 10 a.m. MST. Johnson went intosurgery shortly after noon, and was still in surgery at 3:30 p.m. He isunder the care of neurosurgeon Dr. Rob Hollis.
Johnson won three World Cup downhills and the Olympic gold in 1984. Hecontinued racing until retiring after the 1989 season. He started hisracing comeback in November, and has been racing on the Nor Am circuitin the United States and Canada for five months. He had skied the BigMountain course the previous two days in official training.
Thursday’s accident came in a non-championship event. The first officialchampionship event is scheduled for Friday.