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Death of Canadian skicross racer raises safety concerns [VIDEO]

Scott Levin's picture

The tragic death of Nick Zoricic on Saturday has prompted many people to ask one question: Do more safety precautions need to be taken so this doesn't happen again?

Zoricic, a 29-year-old Canadian skicross racer, died during a race Saturday in Switzerland. The cause of death has been determined to be severe neurotrauma.

In skicross, multiple racers ski down a hill that features jumps and turns, similar to motorcycle riders in motocross and snowboarders in boardercross. Intentionally contacting another skier during a race is not allowed and results in automatic disqualification because of the potential for serious injury.

Unfortunately, as witnesses saw Saturday, that isn't the only danger lurking on a skicross course.

Zoricic was racing with two other skiers as they approached a jump. One skier easily cleared the jump and remained on the course. Another managed to just slide by an advertisement pole and continue the race. Zoricic took the jump too wide and landed virtually on top of the safety netting outside the course.

After a violent fall, he became briefly entangled in the net before skidding to a stop. Emergency personnel raced to his side, but recovery procedures were unsuccessful. Zoricic became the second Canadian skier to die during a run this year. Sarah Burke, also 29, crashed in Utah during a training run in January and passed away nine days later due to severe brain damage.

While everyone's first concern has been for Zoricic's family, many are also turning a critical eye to the safety of these courses. Grindelwald, the course in Switzerland where the deadly crash occurred, has been serving as a location for the sport since 2005. Officials at the course expressed their condolences and stood by the track's safety.

"We are an experienced organizer but, nevertheless, skicross is a sport where four racers fight to win a race. In these circumstances there is a risk to fall or risk of injury, and since today we know there is a risk for death," Christopher Egger, the race organizing committee's president, told the Associated Press.

Despite the claims of a safe course, it does not appear that Zoricic was out of control on his run, nor did he appear to be off line. But when the skier moved over the ramp, he found himself headed well off course. The safety netting is needed to stop fallen skiers, though it is unknown what type of material is used to construct the posts that hold up these fences. Additionally, the advertisement post that the skiers managed to avoid could be viewed as too close to the action.

Zoricic, born in Yugoslavia, grew up in Toronto and made his debut in the skicross sport in 2009. He failed to qualify for the 2010 Winter Olympics but produced two World Cup top-three finishes over the next two years.

Several organizations, including the Swiss ski federation, plan to investigate the crash.

Warning: The video may be disturbing for some audiences.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
Video Source: YouTube (Marben96)

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