Bill Koch (skier)

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Bill Koch
Country United States
Full nameWilliam Conrad Koch
Born (1955-06-07) June 7, 1955 (age 68)
Brattleboro, Vermont, U.S.
World Cup career
Seasons4 – (19821984, 1992)
Overall titles1 – (1982)
Medal record
Men's cross-country skiing
Representing  United States
Olympic Games
Silver medal – second place 1976 Innsbruck 30 km
World Championships
Bronze medal – third place 1982 Oslo 30 km

William Conrad Koch (born June 7, 1955) is an American cross-country skier who competed at the international level.[1] A native of Guilford, Vermont, he is a graduate of the nearby Putney School in Putney. In 1974, he became the first American to win a medal in international competition, placing third in the European junior championships.[2]


Koch was born in Brattleboro, Vermont, to Fred and Nancy Koch. His parents divorced, and, in 1965, when his mother became remarried to the then president of Marlboro College, Koch lived with the new family. At the age of 12, Koch met noted cross-country skier Bob Gray, who taught him how to train effectively. When the family moved to England, Koch attended Aiglon College, a boarding school in Switzerland, for a year. The next year, the family returned to Vermont, and it became expeditious for Koch to attend the Putney School, where he could pursue his interest in cross-country skiing.[3]

Koch married and became the father of two daughters. Over time he took his family to New Zealand and Australia, in search of "new frontiers". After his athletic career, he consulted in the construction of cross-country ski courses in Frisco, Colorado; Cable, Wisconsin; and Labrador City, Newfoundland.[3] He later lived in Hawaii, where he found a way to skate-ski on wet sand. By 2006, he had returned to Putney briefly.[4]

Athletic career[edit]

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 cross-country skiing, and the only one until 2018. Koch also finished sixth in the 15 km event at those same Winter Games.[5] In 1981 Koch set the world record time of just under two hours for 50k on a pond in Marlboro, Vermont.[3]

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.[6]

Koch was a self-assured athlete, when it came to his training regime, which sometimes put him at odds with his coach, Marty Hall.[3]

Afterward, he popularized a new cross-country skiing technique that resembled ice skating on skis, now known as the skate skiing technique. Races that allow skate skiing are called freestyle races because they allow skiers to use either skate skiing or classic technique.[7]

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.[8] 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.[9]

Koch carried the American flag at the opening ceremonies of the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville.[5]

The Bill Koch Ski League, the youth ski league of NENSA (the New England Nordic Ski Association), is named after Koch.[6]

In 2012, Koch was honored as part of the inaugural class of the Vermont Sports Hall of Fame.[5]

Cross-country skiing results[edit]

All results are sourced from the International Ski Federation (FIS).[10]

Olympic Games[edit]

  • 1 medal – (1 silver)
 Year   Age   10 km   15 km   Pursuit   30 km   50 km   4 × 10 km 
1976 20 6 Silver 13 6
1980 24 16 DNF 13 8
1984 28 27 21 17 8
1992 36 42

World Championships[edit]

  • 1 medal – (1 bronze)
 Year   Age   15 km   30 km   50 km   4 × 10 km 
1978 22 15 33 9
1982 26 21 Bronze

World Cup[edit]

Season titles[edit]

  • 1 title – (1 overall)
1982 Overall

Season standings[edit]

 Season   Age  Overall
1982 26 1st place, gold medalist(s)
1983 27 3rd place, bronze medalist(s)
1984 28 54
1992 36 NC


Individual podiums[edit]

  • 5 victories
  • 8 podiums
No. Season Date Location Race Level Place
1 1981–82 16 January 1982 Switzerland Le Brassus, Switzerland 15 km Individual World Cup 1st
2 21 January 1982 Italy Brusson, Italy 30 km Individual World Cup 1st
3 20 February 1982 Norway Oslo, Norway 30 km Individual World Championships[1] 3rd
4 12 March 1982 Sweden Falun, Sweden 30 km Individual World Cup 1st
5 27 March 1982 Italy Kastelruth, Italy 15 km Individual World Cup 1st
6 1982–83 14 January 1983 West Germany Reit im Winkl, West Germany 15 km Individual World Cup 2nd
7 12 February 1983 Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Sarajevo, Yugoslavia 30 km Individual World Cup 1st
8 19 March 1983 United States Anchorage, United States 15 km Individual World Cup 3rd

Note: 1 Until the 1999 World Championships, World Championship races were included in the World Cup scoring system.


  1. ^ Evans, Hilary; Gjerde, Arild; Heijmans, Jeroen; Mallon, Bill; et al. "Bill Koch". Olympics at Sports Reference LLC. Archived from the original on April 17, 2020. Retrieved June 3, 2015.
  2. ^ Allen, E. John B. (2011). Historical Dictionary of Skiing. Lanham: Scarecrow Press. p. 111. ISBN 978-0-8108-7977-5. OCLC 855502192.
  3. ^ a b c d Verschoth, Anita (January 11, 1982). "On Track, Leading The Pack". Sports Illustrated Vault | Retrieved May 11, 2020.
  4. ^ Paur, Jason (2006). My favorite place : great athletes in the great outdoors. Rich, Corey. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. p. 105. ISBN 0-8118-4323-8. OCLC 59279880.
  5. ^ a b c Staff (2012). "Bill Koch". Vermont Sports Hall of Fame. Retrieved May 11, 2020.
  6. ^ a b Robbins, Paul (2019). "The Bill Koch Story & the New England Bill Koch Youth Ski League". New England Nordic Ski Association. Retrieved May 11, 2020.
  7. ^ Fry, John (2017). Story of Modern Skiing. University Press of New England. pp. 199–200. ISBN 978-1-5126-0156-5. OCLC 975025785.
  8. ^ Editors (February 1984). Coming in Strong. pp. 50–6. {{cite book}}: |last= has generic name (help); |work= ignored (help)
  9. ^ Bengtsson, Bengt Erik. "Cross-Country Skating: How It Started". International Ski History Association. Skiing History Magazine. Retrieved February 25, 2018. America's Bill Koch first observed the skate step at a Swedish marathon, then applied it to win the 1982 World Cup of Cross Country skiing.
  10. ^ "Athlete : KOCH Bill". FIS-Ski. International Ski Federation. Retrieved February 26, 2018.
  11. ^ "Bill Koch Reflects on U.S. Gold: 'This could just be the start of an era'". Retrieved May 10, 2020.

External links[edit]

Olympic Games
Preceded by Flagbearer for  United States
Albertville 1992
Succeeded by