Bobsled is one of the most dangerous sports at the 2014 Winter Olympics for the athletes involved due to the high speeds and risk necessary to succeed. On Thursday, it became clear that even those who aren't competing can be put in harm's way.
According to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today, a track worker at Sanki Sliding Center in Rzhanaya Polyana, Russia, was struck by a forerunner sled prior to two-man bobsled training.
Update from Friday, Feb. 14
An update was provided on the victim's condition by Sochi organising committee spokeswoman Alexandra Kosterina, reported by the Associated Press via Fox News:
"The operation went smoothly," Kosterina said on Friday. "He's conscious. He's stable. He's good right now."
Tom Withers of the Associated Press provided a statement from IOC President Thomas Bach discussing the incident during a visit to the AP office in Sochi:
We still do not know why he was in this zone and exactly what happened. The information we have so far is that he has a broken leg and maybe a concussion. We are following up on this matter.
The forerunners are used to assess track conditions prior to competition, but there was apparently a miscommunication that led to the accident.
As seen in this photo courtesy of the Chicago Tribune's Stacy St. Clair, officials tended to the injured worker on the track:
Track worker hit by bobsled at Olympic sliding center. Hit by forerunner sled. Condition unavailable. pic.twitter.com/OXIVVVkXF2— Stacy St. Clair (@StacyStClair) February 13, 2014
An ambulance then took the worker away, per Doug Mills of The New York Times:
Bobsled track accident- Ambulance personal take away a track worker who was hit by a bobsled @ Sanki Sliding Center. pic.twitter.com/IzGkcVVHx4— Doug Mills (@dougmillsnyt) February 13, 2014
The worker's status is not yet known. In fact, very little information regarding the incident has been released to the public, according to Matt Gutman of ABC News:
Details still scant on worker apparently struck by a training sled on the bobsled track more on @GMA— Matt Gutman (@mattgutmanABC) February 13, 2014
Following the accident, training for two-man bobsled was delayed, per Zillgitt. Necessary repairs included issues with a light fixture on the roof, as seen in this photo courtesy of CBC's Mark Connolly:
Breaking: track worker injured at Sanki bobsleigh track. Hit by a forerunner in the track. Repairs being done to roof pic.twitter.com/Gqi8DSObG9— Mark Connolly (@MarkConnollyCBC) February 13, 2014
This isn't the first time we've seen such an incident. American skeleton athlete Noelle Pikus-Pace was struck by a bobsled in Canada in 2005, which ultimately led to her missing the 2006 Winter Games, per the Associated Press.
As is the case with many of the Olympic facilities, the Sanki Sliding Center outside Sochi is different from what sliders usually encounter over the course of their normal seasons. German bobsled coach Christoph Langen discussed the features that make the Olympic track so unique, according to DW.de:
The new thing is that there are three uphill stretches. These existed in Nagano (in 1998) too, but not to this extent. There are inclines of as much as 16 percent, before you go straight downhill again. The changes in speed are great. You wind up slowing down to 130 kilometers per hour (81 mph) from 140, and 150 meters (492 feet) later, you are back up to 145 kph. It's like a little roller coaster.
It remains unclear if the intricacies of this specific track related to the accident that occurred on Thursday, but it is a near certainty that greater safety measures will be taken moving forward in order to ensure that nothing similar happens again.
While there were major concerns regarding the Sochi Games prior to their commencement, things have largely gone off without a hitch. The bobsled accident is the first significant hurdle that organizers will have to clear, and it will surely test the mettle of those in charge.
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