Salem Radio Network News Monday, December 6, 2021

Sports

Olympics-Beijing luge crash investigated after injury to Polish athlete

(Reuters) -Beijing 2022 organisers and luge officials opened an investigation after Polish slider Mateusz Sochowicz hit a closed barrier that should have been open during a training session on the Olympic track.

The Polish Toboggan Sports Association said Sochowicz had successful surgery after fracturing his left kneecap and cutting his right leg to the bone in the accident on Monday at the Yanqing National Sliding Centre.

Juan Antonio Samaranch, the IOC’s head of the coordination commission for the Games that start in February, described the situation as “most unfortunate”.

“The track, and the circumstances under which this accident happened, are being investigated by both the (luge) federation and the organising committee very seriously,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

“If there are lessons to be learned, as probably there will, we will implement them and have plenty of time to implement,” added the Spaniard.

He said the track had received “extraordinary marks for its safety and its quality” from the two international federations that had used it in test events.

Sochowicz said his accident could have been far more serious had he not taken evasive action.

The 25-year-old, who represented Poland at the 2018 Winter Olympics, said the track team had been slow to react and he had spent half an hour on the ice before being transported to hospital for surgery.

He explained how he had been given the green light to go and then suddenly saw a closed gate on the track.

“I then let the sled out from under me and took the position like a downhill skier,” he told Polish web portal Onet. “I was hoping that at this speed I would be able to jump over the barrier.

“However, everything was happening too fast and I didn’t have time to bounce. That’s why my legs are broken, not the rest of my body. If I hadn’t reacted, it could have resulted in a tragedy.”

Sochowicz said the track team had shown “great incompetence.”

“They didn’t know what to do at all. Someone came to me and tried to touch my (exposed) bone with a glove. Dante-esque scenes were happening there,” he added.

Sochowicz said he had not given up on competing in his second Olympics and hoped he might get a wildcard from the governing body as he focused on his recovery.

The Polish team’s physiotherapist Patryk Przerywacz said it should be possible for Sochowicz to make a full recovery before the Olympics.

“From the medical perspective, the recovery takes 10 weeks on average in such situations,” he said.

Sochowicz said there was a bigger problem, however.

“I don’t know if I will be able to rebuild mentally. I don’t know if I will ever be able to go on this track, I would be afraid that something might be waiting for me just around the corner,” he said.

At the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Georgian Nodar Kumaritashvili was killed during training on the luge run after losing control at high speed and being thrown over the sidewall of the track and into a steel support pole.

(Writing by Nick Mulvenney, Manasi Pathak and Alan Baldwin, additional reporting by Bartosz Dabrowski in Gdansk, editing by Peter Rutherford and Ed Osmond and Christian Radnedge)

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