March 10, 2012

Skier Nick Zoricic Dies in Skicross Crash: Canadian skier Nick Zoricic, 29, died after crashing in a World Cup skicross event in Switzerland Saturday. On the final jump of a race, Zoricic went off the course and struck safety nets, suffering "severe neurotrauma," according to the International Ski Federation. He's the second top Canadian skier to die this year, following Sarah Burke's death in January after a training accident on a halfpipe in Utah.

posted by rcade to Olympics at 10:26 AM - 5 comments

Egger said it was a "surprise" to see Zoricic's line of flight off the jump, though "we put the fences there because you have to protect the racers for the finish area."

You have failed immensely.

posted by cl at 06:57 PM on March 10

You have failed immensely.

I think it would be useful to watch the vid before coming to that conclusion. It's here. Skip the rest of this comment if you don't want to know more.

Summary: on the previous jump, Zoricic was right at the right edge of the course, and actually landed with one ski over the edge. He got back to center but found himself at the back of the pack. It looks like he decided to take a chance on the last jump and went right to find room to pass, but rather than line up to the right and take the jump straight, he was angling right as he took the jump. He landed well off the course, more or less coming down in a fence that looks like it was set up to protect racers from hitting a structure of some kind, and went down hard.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 07:27 PM on March 10

I did see the video before reaching my conclusion. It seems fair to call out the design of a course that allows a skier who has hit a jump wrong to land directly on a "safety" fence.

posted by cl at 12:06 AM on March 11

I don't think we can judge from the camera angles whether the course was safely designed. It looks like the blue lines in the landing of the fatal jump are misplaced, but we'd need a top-down view of the course to see whether that's an optical illusion or not.

From the video, it seems to me that Zoricic's fatal injuries were likely suffered after he hit the fence and landed awkwardly on his head as he somersaulted.

posted by rcade at 10:28 AM on March 11

I did see the video before reaching my conclusion. It seems fair to call out the design of a course that allows a skier who has hit a jump wrong to land directly on a "safety" fence.

cl, I've been a fan of competitive skiing for decades. I've seen a lot of crashes over the years, including many that involved more air and more speed than that one, and never before seen or known of one that ended in a fatality except when the skier hit something a lot more solid than a line of pop fence. In all the cases I know of except one (Ulrike Maier), the "something" was a human who walked onto the course when they shouldn't have been there. That's how rare this kind of thing is. Given that these events take place not on a parquet floor or a rubberized track but on a mountain, with rocks, trees, lift towers and structures, a lot of work has to go into providing reasonable crash protection, and also to making sure that nobody gets on the course who doesn't belong there -- that's why Olympic courses are notoriously dummied down, because you get a number of people competing who are not part of the sport's elite. That's why public-access halfpipes have signs that say "no inverts" -- because Joe Blow has no business going upside down, landing on his head and getting a c-spine injury.

But there's nothing harder than the planet, and when you're going fast, you can hit it awful hard. I believe there is no way to make a course "safe" in the way that you seem to be thinking. If skicross courses, alpine courses, ski jumping venues, and freestyle courses and venues were designed such that a skier could not go off course, hit anything harder than a feather pillow or more obstructive than a piece of newspaper, or land on their head, there would be no such competitions.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 06:21 PM on March 11

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