Bill Koch (skier)
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June 7, 1955 |
Brattleboro, Vermont, U.S.
A native of Brattleboro, Vermont, he is a graduate of the nearby The Putney School in Putney. He originally competed in the NIS[clarification needed] in the Nordic combined, but later switched to cross-country skiing. In 1974 he became the first American to win a medal in international competition, placing third in the European junior championships.
Koch won the silver medal in the 30 km event at the 1976 Winter Olympics, becoming the first American to win an Olympic medal in Nordic skiing. He remains the only North American male to win an Olympic medal in this event. Koch also finished sixth in the 15 km event at those same Winter Games. Koch has the world record time for 30k set on South Pond in Marlboro, Vermont.
Stress caused by media pressure, along with asthma, plagued Koch after his early successes. Considered the top American sportsman at the 1980 Winter Olympics, he performed poorly and finished far out of contention in all of his races.
Afterward, he popularized a new skiing technique that resembled ice skating on skis, now known as the skate-skiing cross-country skiing technique. Races that allow skate-skiing are called free technique races because they allow skiers to use either skate-skiing technique or classic technique. In 1982 he was crowned the cross-country skiing overall World Cup champion. Koch earned a bronze medal in the 30 km event at the 1982 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships, becoming the first non-European ever to medal in cross-country skiing at the World Championships. (Canada's Sara Renner would become the second when she earned a bronze medal in the individual sprint at the 2005 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Oberstdorf.) Koch also finished third overall in the 1983 World Cup. The freestyle skiing technique has been used in Biathlon competitions since 1985, has been mandatory in Nordic Combined since 1985, and has been part of all cross-country skiing competitions since 1982.
The Bill Koch Ski League, the youth ski league of NENSA (the New England Nordic Ski Association), is named after Koch.
In 2012, Koch was honored as part of the inaugural class of the Vermont Sports Hall of Fame.