Yugoslavia (now Slovenia)
Vinko Bogataj (Slovenian: /ˈʋiːŋko bɔɡaˈtaj/; born 1948) is a Slovenian former ski jumper. He became famous on American television in the 1970s for a moment of spectacular failure that was featured on ABC's Wide World of Sports as the infamous Agony of Defeat.
Agony of Defeat jump
Bogataj was competing as a Yugoslavian entrant at the ski flying event in Oberstdorf, West Germany (now Germany) on 7 March 1970. A light snow had begun falling at the start of the competition, and by the time Bogataj was ready for his third jump on the Heini Klopfer hill, the snow had become quite heavy. Midway down the inrun for his jump, Bogataj realised that the conditions had made the ramp too fast. He attempted to lower his center of gravity and stop his jump, but instead lost his balance completely and rocketed out of control off the end of the inrun, tumbling and flipping wildly, and crashing through a light retaining fence near a crowd of stunned spectators before coming to a halt. Despite the ferocity of the crash, Bogataj suffered only a mild concussion.
Bogataj returned to ski jumping the next year but never duplicated the success he had before the crash and retired from the sport competitively, save for occasional senior competitions thereafter. During his career, Bogataj's best career finish was 57th in the individual normal hill competition in Bischofshofen in 1969 during that year's Four Hills Tournament.
Minor celebrity status in the U.S.
It is likely that Vinko Bogataj's crash would have remained obscure had a film crew from Wide World of Sports not been on hand to record the event. The show featured an opening narration (by host Jim McKay) over a montage of sports clips, and co-ordinating producer Dennis Lewin inserted the footage of Bogataj's tremendous tumble to coincide with the words "...and the agony of defeat." Throughout the show's long history, various images were used for the other parts of the narration, including for "The thrill of victory...", which directly preceded the above phrase and was often accompanied by images of the celebrating team at the most recent Super Bowl or World Cup. But for those many years after that point, the "agony of defeat" was always illustrated by Bogataj's failed jump. (Later on, other clips were added to the "agony of defeat", but Bogataj's crash was always featured and always the first played.)
The melodrama of the narration—which became a catchphrase in the US—and the sympathetic pain of watching Bogataj wipe out week after week, transformed the uncredited ski jumper into an American icon of bad luck and misfortune. Meanwhile, having retired to his quiet, private life in Slovenia, Vinko Bogataj was unaware of his celebrity, and so was quite confused to be asked to attend the 20th anniversary celebration for Wide World of Sports in 1981. He was stunned when other, more famous athletes present, such as Muhammad Ali, asked him for his autograph.
"Every time I'm on ABC, I crash."
- —Vinko Bogataj, having suffered a minor car accident while on his way to be interviewed by ABC's Terry Gannon.