Olympic Champ Johnson to Return to Oregon

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Portland, Ore. Sept. 7, 2001 (AP)--Olympic champion Bill Johnson will return to his family's home to recover from a near-fatal skiing accident.

After it was announced that his 100-day insurance benefits at a rehabilitation center in Bakersfield, Calif., would run out, doctors at Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation Hospital in Oklahoma City offered to allow Johnson into their rigorous therapy sessions.

But Dr. Amal Moorad, medical director at the Jim Thorpe hospital, determined Tuesday that the skier's needs _ more cognitive in nature than physical _ would be better met at home.

``He requires a program of post-acute outpatient therapy in a home environment,'' the hospital said in a statement. ``Obviously, given that Johnson's family resides in Oregon, it makes much more sense for him to remain there for outpatient therapy _ where he can be surrounded by friends and relatives _ instead of coming to Oklahoma.''

Financial arrangements already had been made to allow Johnson to take part in 3-to-4 weeks of three-hour daily sessions of physical, occupational and speech therapy at the Oklahoma facility.

Without that treatment, his only option is home care, with limited outpatient therapy at a Portland hospital.

``He's just going to be excited about coming home,'' the skier's mother, DB Johnson, said.

Johnson, who won the downhill gold medal at the 1984 Sarajevo Games, had been out of competitive skiing for years when he decided to try a comeback. During a training run in March for the U.S. Alpine Championships in Whitefish, Mont., Johnson caught an edge and tumbled face-first onto the hard-packed snow.

He was in a coma for three weeks, and although he can walk, talk and comprehend, he might never fully recover some motor functions.

Johnson's mother said he has made ``great strides'' the past month. He can identify all objects shown him, compared with just 10 percent after emerging from his coma. His reading skills also are improving, and he can solve simple math problems. XtremeSports

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