February 14, 2006

Snowboard cross brings more danger

By Mark Meadows

SESTRIERE, Italy (Reuters) - Danger has become a feature of
the Turin Games with downhill skiers and lugers among those to
be hurt and if snowboard cross is anything to go by, more
injuries will follow.

Snowboard cross makes its Olympic debut on Thursday but has
already claimed its first victims with U.S. rider Jayson Hale
doubtful after hurting his knee in training and Austrian medal
hope Manuela Riegler ruled out after breaking her ankle.

Boardercross, as it is also known, involves four riders
racing side by side down a narrow, steep course with several
jumps. Nasty falls and crashes between racers are commonplace,
with riders well aware of the risks.

Norwegian Line Ostvold died in 2004 from head injuries
after falling in a training session for a World Cup snowboard
cross event in Chile.

Austria's Dieter Krassnig, who will compete in the men's
competition on Thursday, broke his wrist falling on a jump in
the 2003 world championships and required four operations. He
has also suffered a severe concussion and a broken shinbone.

"Yes," Krassnig replied when asked on Tuesday if snowboard
cross was dangerous. "But in American football and rugby, there
are injuries."


A catalog of injuries have dogged the Turin Games.

The treacherous Alpine skiing downhill slope claimed 2002
champion Carole Montillet-Carles of France and Lindsey Kildow
of the U.S. in training runs on Monday while Canadian Allison
Forsyth faces a six-month lay-off.

In the luge, 52-year-old Anne Abernathy of the U.S. Virgin
Islands, known as "Grandma Luge," fractured her wrist on Sunday
with American Samantha Retrosi and local favorite Anastasia
Oberstolz-Antonova also hurt in crashes.

Snowboard cross joins the already challenging halfpipe and
parallel giant slalom in the Olympic snowboarding family and
governing body the International Ski Federation (FIS) says it
is as safe as possible.

"For sure there are injuries as in all other sports but we
do not believe it is more dangerous than other sports," FIS
snowboard coordinator Chris Wagner told Reuters.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it was up to
the FIS to nominate events for the Winter Games.

U.S. rider Lindsey Jacobellis, favorite in the women's
event at Bardonecchia on Friday, summed up her mood before a
snowboard cross race.

"It gives me a horrible feeling in my stomach. It's nerves
but also adrenaline," she said.