GENEVA — A Canadian racer died in a World Cup skicross event Saturday, tumbling through safety nets in what ski authorities called a “freak accident.” It was the second death in less than two months of a freestyle skier from Canada.
Nik Zoricic died from head injuries when he crashed directly into the nets lining the side of the course after going wide over the final jump. As he went through the nets, his skis and poles were thrown clear.
Skicross – in which four racers jostle for an edge down a course of banks, rolls and ridges – debuted as an Olympic sport in 2010.
Max Gartner, president of Alpine Canada, said he was satisfied with the safety precautions in place for a sport sometimes described as “NASCAR on skis.”
“We’re pretty confident that this was a World Cup race and there’s lots of rules and regulations, and inspectors on site,” he said.
Gartner, speaking during a conference call from Toronto, said: “I would say it’s a freak accident, from here. It doesn’t happen often, but it’s devastating. We look at all our athletes as members of our family, so it’s hard.”
Zoricic died two months after Winter X Games champion Sarah Burke crashed during halfpipe training in Park City, Utah. Burke died from her injuries nine days later. She was also 29.
Zoricic’s death will continue a debate on safety in skiing, particularly in the relatively new disciplines of freestyle skiing. International Ski Federation secretary general Sarah Lewis said Zoricic’s death had been “a terrible, tragic accident.”
Zoricic was treated by doctors before being airlifted to a hospital at Interlaken, Switzerland. He was pronounced dead as a result of “severe neurotrauma,” the ski federation said in a statement.
The governing body will work with Swiss ski officials to analyze the crash and course security.