- Vinko Bogataj (born 1950) is a former ski jumper from Slovenia who became noted on US 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".
Bogataj was competing as a Yugoslavian entrant at the Ski-flying World Championships in Oberstdorf, West Germany (Germany (also known as GER) ) on March 21, 1970. A light snow had begun falling at the start of the event, and by the time Bogataj was ready for his third jump, the snow had become quite heavy. Midway down the ramp for that jump, Bogataj realized 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 ramp, 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 and injury.
He returned to ski jumping the next year but never duplicated the success he had before the crash and retired from the sport competitively (except for occasional senior competitions thereafter). During his career, Bogataj's best career finish was 57th in the individual normal hill event at Bischofshofen, Austria in 1969 during that year's Four Hills Tournament.
Bogataj became a ski instructor, coaching the 1991 World Champion Slovenian ski jumper Franci Petek and supplementing his income by operating a forklift at a factory.
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 coordinating 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 Football World Cup. But for those many years after that point, the "agony of defeat" was always illustrated by Bogataj's failed jump.
The melodrama of the narration; which became something of a catch phrase 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 30th anniversary celebration for Wide World of Sports in 1991. He was stunned when other, more famous athletes present, such as Muhammad Ali, asked him for his autograph.
Today, Bogataj lives in his home town of Lesce, Slovenia (also known as SLO) . He is married and has two daughters. In his spare time, he enjoys woodcarving and painting.
"Every time I'm on ABC, I crash."
- —Vinko Bogataj, having suffered a minor car accident in a hotel parking lot while on his way to be interviewed by ABC's Terry Gannon.