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Vonn's crash raises more safety questions

Vonn's crash raises more safety questions

Lindsey Vonn has become the latest on a long list of high-profile skiers to get injured this season, raising more questions over water-injected courses and safety measures.
Vonn's crash Monday appeared to be the product of an icy patch on the giant slalom course in Lienz, Austria. Just after she came sharply around a gate, the American lost control and was sent tumbling down the mountain airborne with her skis over her head. She fell hard but suffered no broken bones.
Still, her bruised left arm was placed in a splint, and Vonn's husband Thomas was critical of the course preparation.
"They made the conditions pure ice directly at the gate and then grippy everywhere else, which in my opinion is the most dangerous condition a racer can encounter," Thomas Vonn, a former U.S. Ski Team racer, wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press.
"What the FIS is doing with the World Cup right now would be the equivalent of Formula One putting on a race on a nice dry track, except instead of leaving the track dry they decide to spray oil randomly every couple hundred yards."
Injecting courses with water to create super icy conditions was formerly used only for men's races. Lately, it has come to the women's circuit.
Vonn was also critical of an icy slalom course in Aspen, Colorado, in November, likening the surface to "pond ice" after 24 skiers failed to finish their runs.
Vonn wasn't alone Monday, either, with rival Maria Riesch also failing to finish the opening run and teammate Julia Mancuso _ the Olympic giant slalom champion _ losing a large chunk of time after hitting a gate.
Vonn could return for Tuesday's slalom, while downhill world champion John Kucera, World Cup slalom champion Jean-Baptiste Grange and former women's overall World Cup winner Nicole Hosp are among a number of racers already ruled out of the Vancouver Games in February.
Lara Gut, Resi Stiegler, Kelly Vanderbeek, Rainer Schoenfelder and Patrick Bourque are also out long-term and there has been an outcry for changes in safety procedures.
At the men's downhill in Bormio this week, the International Ski Federation is testing gates with new flags that tear apart on impact. The new panels feature a line of Velcro down the center that in theory will rip apart if a skier crashes into them.
TJ Lanning of the United States and Pierre-Emmanuel Dalcin of France were both victims of season-ending crashes caused in part due to high-speed impact with gates.
The new flags in Bormio have been installed only at preselected gates seen as potential trouble spots. About 10 gates were featured for Monday's final training session.
"We're just picking key gates that are more prone to being a contact gate," men's World Cup assistant race director Mike Kertesz said.
Gates were originally meant as objects for skiers to maneuver around, not pound through as often happens these days.
"We have to find that fine line," Kertesz said. "Are we trying to design something that isn't affecting the racer when they move by or is it something to turn around?
"We obviously don't want to have something on the course that if you hit it will hurt you, so we're adapting to how the athletes are skiing. We all know they're skiing _ even in downhill _ through them, not around them."
Marco Buechel, the veteran downhiller from Liechtenstein, approves of the new flags.
"I took a close look at them and the only thing is once a racer tears one apart it takes some time to reattach," he said. "But in general if you hit them they open quickly, and I think that's a good move."


Updated : 2021-06-22 16:55 GMT+08:00