Airbags like this one Jan Hudec wore in December could be used in competition soon.The Sochi Olympics have seen plenty of frightening injuries thus far in everything from skicross to freestyle skiing to snowboardcross to alpine skiing, but before too long, some of those injuries may be preventable. In particular, alpine skiing could get a lot safer thanks to the development of airbags for racers to wear on their backs, and Canadian skiers Jan Hudec (who claimed Canada's first alpine skiing medal in 20 years Sunday) , Manuel Osborne-Paradis and Erik Guay have been three of the four racers regularly testing those airbags in training runs on the World Cup circuit this season. The airbags, developed as a collaboration between Italian company Dainese and the International Ski Federation (FIS), haven't been tested in serious competition yet, so they weren't considered ready to be used in Sochi. However, FIS chief race director for men’s alpine skiing Gunter Hujara told AFP in late January that the system is close to competition-ready:
Gunther Hujara, FIS chief race director for men’s alpine skiing, said yesterday that the system was not quite ready for a mass roll-out despite the prototype having been used in training runs on the World Cup circuit this season.
“The D-Air System seems to be almost ready now, we did some last tests recently and we had a meeting with the coaches in Val Gardena where the latest prototype was presented,” Hujara said.
“We are very happy as it now seems to be the right time to present it to the world as something that might work in ski racing.”
The system is built on similar work Dainese did to protect motocross competitors, but one of the biggest challenges was setting the airbags to deploy only when an athlete is crashing. That's obviously very different in motocross and ski racing, so Dainese had to do plenty of data collection and testing on top-level skiers to make these airbags functional on the slopes, and Hudec, Osborne-Paradis and Guay have proven crucial there (along with Italian Werner Heel and some other top World Cup competitors). From Maria Pia Beltran of the International Sports Press Association, here's a story on how these airbags work, how they've been improved over three years of work and how they could eventually apply to much more than just alpine skiing:Read More »from Could the airbags Canadian skiers have been testing help improve Olympic safety?