Swiss suffer double injury blow on crash track

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Feb 20 2010 08:26 AM | Updated as of Feb 20 2010 04:26 PM

WHISTLER - Swiss Olympic bobsleigh hopes suffered a double setback on Friday as the widely-criticised Whistler Sliding Centre claimed two more injury victims.

Swiss brakeman Juerg Egger will miss the two-man bob after he suffered a spinal injury in Friday's official training, team doctor Christian Schlegel revealed.

"He was brought to Vancouver by helicopter for further observation. He has a cervical spine injury. He can walk, he has no motor function disruption," said Schlegel.

Fellow Swiss hope Beat Hefti was also forced to withdraw after suffering concussion in a crash during Wednesday's accident-plagued training session.

"Beat Hefti has a head injury and is not able to compete in the two-man bobsleigh," said Schlegel.

"The prognosis is very difficult. We'll have to re-evaluate him each day. Beat Hefti suffered from bruises across his body and a concussion in the crash."

Hefti won bronze medals with Martin Annen in the two- and four-man events in the Turin Olympics four years ago and also won a two-man bronze in 2002.

The Whistler track has been widely condemned as too dangerous following the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili who was killed in a high-speed training crash last week.

Various modifications were made to improve safety, but on Wednesday there were eight spectacular bobsleigh crashes before the International Luge Federation (ILF) announced a full inquiry into the venue would be held after the Games.

Reigning two-man bob champion Andre Lange of Germany and brakeman Kevin Kuske said crashes come with the territory and paricipants must accept that.

"It's a really challenging, difficult and unbelievably fast track. You have to have a lot of experience to clock a fast time," Lange said.

"You have to be wide awake from the start to the finish and only the pilots that can get four perfect runs are in the bid to become Olympic champion.

"Crashes can happen. Corners 11 to 13 aren't called 50-50 for nothing."

Despite the injury toll, an International Bobsleigh Federation spokesman this week pointed out that other Games have had their fair share of crashes.

"At Park City in 2002 (for the Salt Lake City Games), there were 17 crashes in the first run of training," he said.

"It's not untypical - there were not very many teams that were not holding back at the start."