For the second time this year, Canada’s ski team is mourning the loss of an athlete after Nik Zoricic died after crashing at a World Cup ski-cross event in Switzerland.
The 29-year-old Toronto native missed a jump and landed directly in safety netting. He died from “severe neurotrauma” after emergency crews airlifted him to hospital.
“The atmosphere is a state of great loss and mourning here,” Canadian coach Dave Campbell told CBC. “A lot of people are still in shock and our thoughts go out to the whole Zoricic family.”
Ski-cross is relatively new to the World Cup and Olympic circuit. Four athletes race to the bottom simultaneously on a track full of jumps, bumps and banked turns. Some have compared it to NASCAR or BMX racing.
“Our thoughts are first and foremost with Nik’s parents and his family,” Alpine Canada president Max Gartner said in a statement. “Nik was a very talented young ski racer and a great athlete who was much loved by his teammates and fellow competitors.”
Earlier this year, freestyle skier Sarah Burke died in Utah after crashing during training.
She never recovered after spending 10 days in a coma.
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The international skiing federation (FIS) cancelled remaining World Cup races today and Sunday at Grindelwald.
“Zoricic fell heavily just before the finish in the round of eight, crashing directly into the safety netting and thereafter lying motionless,” a FIS news release said. “The medical care from team doctors and Air Glacier followed immediately. Despite reanimation, Zoricic died at 12:35 as a result of severe neurotrauma.
“The organizing committee, FIS and Swiss Ski express their deepest condolences to the family and friends of Nik Zoricic and the Canadian Ski Team.”
Zoricic was born in Sarajevo and moved to Canada at a young age. He was an experienced skier, The Globe and Mail said, having just switched from Alpine racing to ski-cross in the hopes of making the Olympics.
He finished sixth in the overall standings last year, and was competing in his 36th World Cup race today.
Grindelwald has hosted ski-cross events for about 5 years, and local organizers there are at a loss to explain Zoricic’s death.
“We are all very sad. It is unbelievable for us all,” organizer Christoph Egger told the Globe. “We are an experienced organizer, but, nevertheless, ski-cross is a sport where 4 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.”
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