There's a severe risk of injury in plenty of the Winter Olympic sports, and we're really seeing that with skicross in Sochi.
The sport, which originated in the 1980s as a way to bring the side-by-side racing excitement found in motocross and auto racing to skiing, has four participants racing at a time, taking on both steep downhills and jumps in a race to the finish. It's a fantastic spectator sport, but in Russia, it's led to numerous injuries thus far, including Russia's Maria Komissarova breaking a vertebra in her back during a training run Saturday and requiring six and a half hours of surgery in Germany.
That's led to questions about if the Sochi course is unsafe, if injuries are to be expected in this sport, and perhaps even if qualifying standards should be more rigorous. Canadian men's skicross racer Brady Leman told Yahoo's Jeff Passan and Eric Adelson that this course is extremely difficult, which might have contributed to Komissarova's injury:
"This is a super challenging course here," Leman told Yahoo Sports. "For someone in her position, she'd had have to been on her game here. If you're one of the athletes at the back of the pack, there's not a lot of room for error."
It's notable that Leman is also talking about Komissarova's relative ability, though. As noted in that piece, she's only been competing in ski cross since the end of the 2010-11 season, and she hadn't finished in the top 15 in any event so far this season. That doesn't mean that the injury was necessarily her fault, but her skill level is something that should be factored in here. Leman went on to say that the ability spread in a relatively-young sport like ski cross can make it challenging for course designers to make something that's both challenging for the best and reasonably safe for other participants, and Canadian women's ski cross racer Marielle Thompson added that she feels the course is safe.Read More »from Skicross injuries show the risks of the sport and the challenges of course-building