Bill Johnson, the first American to win an Olympic gold medal in downhill skiing, died Friday at the age of 55 in Gresham, Oregon.
According to the Associated Press, via ESPN.com, the Los Angeles native succumbed to an illness brought on by a series of strokes in recent years.
Johnson became a household name in 1984 when he took gold at the Sarajevo Olympics, as no American man had ever won an alpine skiing gold medal.
Andrew Weibrecht, 2014 Winter Olympics super-G silver medalist, credited Johnson with helping the United States develop into a skiing superpower.
"Bill was an unbelievable fighter since his injury. He went through a lot. It's sad," Weibrecht said. "He was the guy that really jump-started American downhill racing. Nothing had really happened much up until '84 when Bill came and had that fantastic run in Sarajevo, and that same year he won Wengen."
During a comeback attempt in 2001 ahead of the 2002 Olympics, Johnson suffered a brain injury in a training crash and was in a coma for three weeks.
Many expressed their sadness regarding Johnson's death on Twitter, including American downhill skier Steven Nyman:
Steven Nyman @Steven_Nyman
RIP Bill Johnson, one of the pioneers who paved the way for the #americandownhiller https://t.co/cc8pIX4WmA1/22/2016, 9:47:19 AM
Johnson was undoubtedly a pioneer in the realm of American skiing, and the sport may have never taken off in the United States if not for his remarkable effort in 1984. His accomplishments will surely continue to have a positive impact on USA skiing for many years to come.
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