I do not follow the Olympics but have seen many headlines concerning the current games in China saying that some highly regarded competitors have had ‘wipeouts’, meaning spectacular falls. I looked it up to see what was going on and from what I saw in the clips below, it seems like the winter Olympics events are a hell of a lot more dangerous than the ones in the summer Olympics, apart from the curling events of course.
Skiers can reach speeds of around 150 mph while people in the luge event are going down a narrow tubular track feet first at speeds of around 80 mph. Even in slow motion it looks scary. The slightest misjudgment and you could have a very nasty, even life-threatening, accident. That requires a considerable level of mental toughness to overcome one’s natural fears.
Giant slalom (you will have to click on the link):
Luge (you will have to click on the link):
Men skiiers only reach about 120-140kmh, women slightly less. Bobsleigh teams go even faster.
Some attributed the Giant Slalom crash to the artificial snow, though whether that’s a cause is debatable. But there have been enough incidents (e.g. cheating in speed skating, questionable “food”) that as they grow in number, these “games” will be as big a farce as the money pit of hosting them. This could end up being as big a mess for China as the olympics and world cup were for Brazil.
Speaking of crashes, those who follow skiing will remember Todd Brooker’s crash at Kitzbuhel, Austria on January 23, 1987, just past 35 years ago. (I won’t link to the video, it’s on youtube.) It’s one of the most infamous crashes in skiing history, only the fatal crashes are considered worse. Brooker was quoted as saying everyone remembers the crash except him.
World record is 158mph.perfectly straight course. Streamlined suit & helmet. No turns. Extreme tuck.
No slalom or downhill would get anywhere near that. Most parachutists don’t go down that fast…
The videos all come up as unavailable for me in Australia.
Matt G says
I go on an annual ski trip with middle school kids. I was at the top of a run, bending down to fasten my bindings, when I noticed a person next to me with poles with a leather basket (very old school, for those who don’t know). I looked up to talk to the owner of those poles, and found myself addressing a woman in her mid-seventies. We chatted for a bit, but then I had to bring up the rear with the kids. She left before me, and I got to watch her carve perfect turns as she made her way down the hill. The kids, meanwhile, were bombing down the hill as fast as they could, with no consideration for technique, and it was an ugly mess. To them, fast skiing is good skiing. I’ll take my time, thank you, and carve the perfect turns I aspired to as a young person.
Marcus Ranum says
That looks like a really horrible day.
Reginald Selkirk says
And then there’s the disaster of the drug testing results.