Historic Silver

Jul 29, 2013

Coaches were stunned at his times as he skied stride after stride to an historic silver medal.

Hi, I'm Tom Kelly and I'll be right back with more of the story on Behind the Gold.

It was opening day at the 1976 Olympics in Innsbruck. The eyes of the world were focused towards the Men's Downhill on the icy slope of Patscherkofel where Austrian farm boy, Franz Klammer, stole the show with an electrifying win over Swiss favorite, Bernhard Russi.

But nearby in the quiet mountain village of Seefeld, American ski history was written on the cross country trails. It was there that an unheralded 20 year old Vermonter, Bill Koch, won silver in the Men's 30k. No one expected that to happen-except Kochie. Coaches along the track were stunned as they looked at their watches. Measuring the splits on the American who started 7th. With his early start, he came into the stadium the leader and watched as one by one no one matched his time, until Soviet, Sergei Saveliev, took the gold, with Koch Silver. He added another Top 10 in the 15k later in the games. Some called it one of the most significant accomplishments in Olympic history.

For legions of cross country enthusiasts on trails across America, it galvanized their growing movement for the health-driven outdoor sport that was sweeping the snowbelt. He became a hero for generations of young cross country skiers and went on to revolutionize the sport, taking advantage of the new skating technique to win the season-long world cup title in 1982. America's hopes are high on matching Kochie's 1976 medal when the Olympics came to Sochi this February. 

This is Tom Kelly with Behind the Gold... Only in Park City... Only on KPCW.

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