Who is Vinko Bogataj?

          I remember when we only had three channels to choose from on the TV, one for each of the three major networks. If you are over forty and of pre-ESPN vintage you will undoubtedly recall ABC’s “Wide World of Sports”. I may be a bit nostalgic and perhaps you will call me crazy but there was an excitement about TV programming in those days that seems to be missing now that we have a couple of hundred channels to surf. Every week from 1961 thru 1998 WWS gave us great fast paced sports coverage from around the world. For more than a decade the show began each week with this moniker: “SPANNING THE GLOBE, TO BRING YOU THE CONSTANT VARIETY OF SPORTS. THE THRILL OF VICTORY, AND THE AGONY OF DEFEAT. THE DRAMA OF ATHLETIC COMPETITION. THIS IS ABC’S WIDE WORLD OF SPORTS.”

          If you are young enough not to remember the show you probably are familiar with the phrase “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat”. On March 21, 1970 Vinko Bogataj competed in West Germany in the world championship ski-jumping competition. Although he never ranked high as a world class jumper he managed to capture fame on that day. It was not for his earlier spectacular jump but rather for his spectacular crash later on that caused him to become America’s symbol for the “agony of defeat”. https://www.rodgerweese.com//www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKEDD1i4oGk  America watched Vinko crash every week at the opening of the show for probably more than a decade. As I look back I cannot think of any particular footage used for the victory side of the equation but the ski- jump crash will forever be embedded in my mind. 

          In his own words Vinko states “the difference between victory and defeat is very slight”.  As the jump iced up and his descent became faster than he expected Vinko tried to stop which resulted in his horrific crash. Fortunately for him, he only sustained a slight concussion. There are several interesting points concerning this story. Vinko achieved fame but was unaware of his celebrity status for twenty one years. With the advent of the Internet that couldn’t happen today but back then he was behind the “iron-curtain” and communications were severely limited. He gained no worldly fame for his success that day only his failure. He was courageous enough to compete in what I think is a very challenging sport yet his courage wasn’t up to the unforeseen icy conditions.

          Vinko could not have foreseen the outcome of that memorable day. He didn’t foresee the change in the weather conditions before attempting his ill fated jump. I wonder what would have made the “slight difference” for him between victory and success? What a great analogy for life. We don’t always foresee the changes in our circumstances before we collide smack into them. We are never sure of the outcome of any particular day. Our challenge is to have the courage to face life with the preparedness to draw upon that slight difference that will result in the “thrill of victory” rather than the “agony of defeat”. “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”Ps. 27:13 (NASB) Perhaps that slight difference rests in the gift of faith from God himself.

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