19 February 2010

Something wrong about Olympics

There is something unhealthy about the Winter Olympics. More and more athletes obtain injuries - and many of them still pursue Olympic glory despite their injuries.

There is something unhealthy about these Olympics.

Anja Paerson of Sweden threw herself down the combined downhill piste on Thursday despite a badly bruised back and leg from a horror crash in the previous day's downhill.

Lindsey Vonn defied a shin injury to win that downhill gold on Wednesday and the US star was back in the combined race although "my shin is killing me".

Slovenian Petra Majdic took cross-country sprint bronze with four fractured ribs and a tear of the lung membrane from a warm-up crash.

Two downhill skiers ended up with grave knee injuries and the evening two-man bobsleigh training saw eight crashes at the treacherous Whistler Sliding Centre where Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili crashed to his death a week ago.

Swifter, higher, stronger

No wonder that officials like German Olympic Committee general director Michael Vesper are questioning the Olympic motto of citius, altius, fortius which translates from Latin into English as swifter, higher, stronger.

"We must get away from the swifter, higher, stronger principle and back to the basic ideas of sport. The main idea must be safety first," Vesper told German ARD television on Thursday. "We can only start this process if everyone joins in. It is not only a matter for sport and its responsible people but also for the public which is interested in seeing more records."

Federation should look at rules

Vesper called on sports federations to look into their rules and facilities in what is a thin line between the needs of the top athletes and those who are lesser experienced.

An Olympic team official from one of the leading winter sport nations, speaking on the condition of anonymity, agreed on Thursday.

"Look at Formula One. The cars were getting faster and faster and then they reduced the engine power and speed. The races are still exciting. No one would notice (in luge) if they were going five or 10 seconds slower," the official told Germany Press Agency dpa.

The luge federation FIL did exactly this, but only after the fatal crash, on the high-speed course, lowering the start in every event and redoing the ice to slow down the sliders. The ski body FIS shaved the final jump of the women's downhill overnight after crashes there of Paerson and Swiss skier Dominique Gisin.

"It's a longer course than the women are used to and a challenge. The reason you're seeing so much carnage is your legs are so exhausted by the end, there's a higher level of fatigue. It's beating people up," said Canadian downhiller Emily Brydon.

Olympic dream too tempting

For many athletes, the Olympic dream is just too tempting.

Kumaritashvili was reportedly scared of the Whistler track but still hurtled down it with speeds of almost 145kph before tragedy struck.

Majdic competed for herself and her Slovenian fatherland despite the immense pain, against doctors' recommendations and encouraged by her psychologist - before there was time to find out the exact nature of the injuries.

"I think that they (the Slovenians) will think that I am just more than a hero, especially when they find out what injuries I was competing with. I think for sure more than a hero," said Majdic.

"This is not a bronze medal, this is a gold medal with little diamonds on it. The wish was so big because I have been fighting for this for 22 years."

Australian bobsledder Duncan Harvey was briefly in hospital for a back complaint after his crash but ruling body FIBT spokesman Don Krone was not concerned, saying that there were 17 crashes in the first training in 2002.

'Attacking the track'

"It is not untypical. People are eager to get stuck into the Olympic Games. There were not very many teams that were not holding back at the start. They were attacking the track," Krone said. But there are also athletes like Italian short track skater Arianna Fontana, who decided not to risk a crash and possible injury and was content with bronze rather than silver in the women's 500m.

"I didn't risk too much to go for silver because I wanted a medal. For me bronze was ok," she said. - (Sapa, February 2010)




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