ORGANISERS at the Russian winter Olympics have been forced to change the snowboarding course after the Norwegian favourite broke his collarbone during a training run.
The announcement came as Britain’s Olympic hopefuls, including Scots snowboarder Ben Kilner, arrived in Sochi ahead of Friday’s opening ceremony. The 25-year-old from Royal Deeside tweeted: “From Russia with Love! … There I said it.”
Unfortunately the sentiment was not shared by his fellow snowboarders who criticised the Rosa Khutor “Extreme Park”, venue for the snowboard slopestyle competition, after Torstein Horgmo, 26, a hot medal prospect, crashed.
The American competitor Charles Guildemond, who set up a snowboarder’s union in 2011, described the jumps on the course as being similar to “dropping out of the sky.” He said: “The last jump I did has a lot of impact in it and the take-off is really long. Some of the guys and girls are intimidated.”
Roope Tonteri of Finland added: “I think they wanted to make big kickers and it’s not really good for riders. It’s not really safe anymore. I just don’t want to get injured.”
The competitors complained that the railings were too close to the beginning of the course and the the jumps were too high. Yesterday, the Olympic authorities agreed to lower three jumps by a total of six feet. However, the International Ski Federation (FIS) blamed Horgmo’s injury on the jump he was attempting rather than the course. “He was just trying a really hard trick,” said FIS official Roberto Moresi after Horgmo was carried from the course on a stretcher.
The competitor was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital where the collarbone break was confirmed, ending his Olympic hopes.
At the conclusion of the three-hour practice, male and female competitors gathered near the finish to discuss what could be done about the course. Billy Morgan, a British snowboarder, was among those calling for changes.
“It’s been a bit scary getting used to hitting the jumps. They weren’t raked properly, which hopefully they can sort tomorrow so they are smoother and not as intense to land.”
Jenny Jones, also competing for Britain, said a number of competitors were far from happy: “People are a little bit concerned about the speed.”
The course design was announced last August but warm weather in Sochi is believed to have stopped some heavy machinery for maintaining the slopes from being used on the course. It is hoped that cooler conditions will allow more work to be carried out.
Bill van Gilder, a technical delegate with the FIS said: “It’s a common process that the athletes come to a venue and have concerns after the first day of training.
“Today’s features were super- good, they just need a few tweaks to make them even better and the feeling I have it that everyone’s ‘stoked’ with the course.”
It was also revealed that as well as protecting athletes from injury, the local authorities are keen to protect them from being bitten by stray dogs.
A pest control company said yesterday it has a contract to kill the animals throughout the Olympics.