Commentary: C.R. Johnson will not be forgotten
February 25, 2010
As news of C.R. Johnson’s tragic passing traveled, it sent shocks through our tight community, prompting unanswerable questions from his adoring family and friends and#8212; from those who are inspired by him to those who simply heard his story, and shared his infectious love for skiing and life.
This should not pose the question: Skiing or life? However, after a difficult procession of Tahoe heroes and loved ones passed, torrents of thoughts naturally overwhelm our psyches. We are among those for whom skiing is life.
For C.R. and his supportive family and#8212; held deep in our thoughts and#8212; there was no doubt that skiing was the life to pursue and his gift to the world. Friends know his story well, as do legions of ski aficionados who follow the narratives told by annual crops of movies.
After a 2005 accident nearly claimed him, leaving him with a traumatic brain injury, he used all his strength and focus to fight against odds, and extraordinarily exceed all expectations. His focus led to his return, and that determination combined with a network of incredible people who aided him along the way, channeling that positive energy toward his amazing recovery.
I got to know C.R. post-accident, and saw the spirited patience with which he worked to painstakingly retrain his brain to send the right messages to his body. Starting elementally, he relearned how to swallow, how to walk, and incredibly, to regain his place among the planet’s best skiers. No doubt, his youthful rise to ski stardom and#8212; from the stunning 1440 that thrust him into the ski-world elite to numerous career accolades achieved since and#8212; has been well documented and admired, but it is his strength to overcome fear and focus on returning to his passion that is his most inspiring quality.
It is a rare thing for a person to know their purpose, let alone be blessed with the ability and strength to believe enough to accomplish life goals. As the reality of our mutual loss set in, I unleashed in mourning, a process our community has endured too often recently.
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Tahoe has many heroes because our environment and culture push us to live at the limits, where the margins narrow. Thus, we go from elation and pride at the impressive successes of our local athletes on the Olympic world stage, to sorrow at the loss of one of our favorite stars, taken from this Earth far too young, and with bitter irony to have overcome insurmountable obstacles, only to snag an edge on Light Towers in one fatal swoop. This is the probability of chaos.
C.R. dedicated his life to his love of skiing, but his greatest lasting legacy will transcend the sport. To me, his legacy will be as an icon of perseverance. Of cherishing what you love. Of the knowledge that hard work and discipline pay off, and that hurdles along the way only brighten the beaming smile that we became accustomed to seeing across his face.
Even in his most challenging and discouraging moments, C.R. had immense appreciation for life, and was ultimately grateful and deservedly proud of his success. He became a hero to many, not solely for his inspiring skiing talents, but for his absolute commitment to working to achieve his greatest dreams.
C.R. will be sorely missed, but his legacy endures in encouraging us to conduct our lives ways that keep our focus on our blessings and not our curses, on our successes and not our shortcomings, and on smiles so bright and paralleled by the beautiful world we awake to every morning. If all the world could be so promising, what a more precious place it would become.
R.I.P., ripper, inspirer, innovator and friend!
and#8212; Jason Dobbs is a Truckee resident and head freeski coach of the Squaw Valley Freestyle Team.