Steamboat Springs Former U.S. Ski Team downhiller Jace Romick, of Steamboat Springs, is rallying current and former skiing greats to help him raise funds to help an Olympic champion who is struggling with disabilities.
Bill Johnson, who won a gold medal in the downhill event in 1984, increasingly is relying on a wheelchair to get around his mobile home in Zig Zag, Ore., Romick said. He has come up with a couple of raffle prizes to raise funds to make Johnson’s home and his mother’s car accessible. He’ll raffle one prize in Steamboat and Winter Park (where the NASTAR finals are taking place) this week, and save another for April 2, when Steamboat is set to host a welcome home party for local Olympians.
“With the help of Phil Mahre, one of the items that will be raffled off is a one-of-a-kind Lake Placid Olympics gate panel autographed by 10 Olympic medalists, as well as 15 World Championship medalists,” Romick said. “This includes Phil and Steve Mahre, Franz Klammer and Mark Ghirardelli (five-time overall World Cup champion).
“I will be selling tickets this weekend at the NASTAR National finals in Winter Park, as well as a few locations in Steamboat. My goal is to sell 1,000 tickets. If this goal is reached by this weekend, the drawing will take place on Saturday in Winter Park.”
Romick said he recently helped get a ski autographed by the same list of illustrious skiers and that it was auctioned off for $10,000 at the recent American Ski Classic legends event in Vail.
For Steamboat’s Olympic skiing fans, Romick said Nordic combined Olympic medalist Todd Lodwick has helped the cause by asking all his Nordic combined silver medal teammates to autograph a race bib. The winning raffle ticket for this item will be drawn during the Steamboat Hometown Heroes Celebration and parade April 2, Romick said.
Romick, who traveled the World Cup circuit across Europe with Johnson during the latter’s meteoric rise to fame, felt pangs of regret in February, on the eve of the 2010 Winter Olympics. He watched a television documentary about Johnson’s current struggles in January and winced at the sight of his former teammate and rival struggling to walk.
According to news reports, Johnson is struggling with memory loss and walks only in a stooped posture.
Johnson was known for his brashness during his international ski racing career. But he came back to earth in 2001, when he crashed on a Montana downhill course while attempting a comeback at the age of 40. He has never quite recovered from those injuries, Romick said.
“The money we raise will help to go toward preparing his house for wheelchair accessibility, ramps and handicap access to his bathroom. I am also trying to raise enough funds to add a wheelchair lift gate to get in and out of his mother’s vehicle,” Romick said.
Tickets can be purchased for either prize or both. Raffle tickets are $5 each or six for $25. Tickets are available at Romick’s Into the West, Ski Haus and Fleischer Sports in Steamboat. Or people can e-mail Romick at firstname.lastname@example.org.