Norwegian snowboarder Torstein Horgmo crashed out of the Sochi Olympics Monday when he took a hard fall during a slopestyle practice run. Horgmo was near the top of the course when the fall occurred. He was attempting a difficult trick off the rail when he crashed face first into the packed snow. Horgmo was rushed to the medical tent where it was determined that his awkward landing fractured his collarbone and caused a concussion. Olympic doctors later confirmed Horgmo’s fracture to be a clean, uncomplicated break. Unfortunately, this means that he will be unable to compete for the gold medal that he was favored to win.
Due to his concussion, Horgmo was unavailable for direct comment. Norway’s press office did release a statement, saying Horgmo expressed his disappointment with the injury. He also acknowledged the inherent danger of the sport, noting the fall was “really bad timing.”
Several of the other snowboarders on the hill were not shocked by Horgmo’s injury. Prior to the practice runs which began Monday, many had expressed concerns about the track. Canadian snowboarder Sebastien Toutant felt the jumps were too big, as if he were “jumping out of a building.” Seamus O’Connor, an American-born 16-year-old who is riding for Ireland, also had concerns that he expressed to the Irish media, calling the course “dangerous.” He encouraged the other riders to seek alterations to make the course safer. Roope Tonteri, the 2013 Men’s Slopestyle Champion, even had his reservations. He thought the course overall looked sketchy, and that the rails were sticky.
Torah Bright, the defending Olympic Halfpipe Champion, also had strong feelings about the safety of the track. But she was more concerned with the actual construction of the course, and said what many felt was a lack of expertise within the course construction itself.
Now that Horgmo has crashed out of the Sochi Olympics, changes are being made. The course is laid out in three large jumps. The jumps get successfully bigger while moving down the mountain. These jumps are going to be flattened out, creating less air for the riders, which may create less major air during the competition. It is necessary, however, to protect the Olympians from further harm. There are several other changes that will be made to ensure safety as well. Anders Forsell, the course creator, called the changes “minor.” He felt that the course performed well considering it was untested. He feels most of the riders had a positive reaction to it.
Roberto Moresi shares Forsell’s opinion. Moresi, an International Ski Federation official and the Sochi assistant snowboard race director, attributed Horgmo’s crash not to the course but to the difficult nature of the trick. Horgmo’s teammate Staale Sandbech saw the crash firsthand. He echoed Moresi’s words, calling the trick “extremely difficult.” In his opinion, it was the hardest trick attempted all day.
Regardless of the reasons, Torstein Horgmo has officially crashed out of the Sochi Olympics. His recovery will not be easy. This is his second major injury in the last eight years, and he was absent for the entire 2006-2007 season due to a cracked spine. For now, Horgmo will just try to stay positive, eagerly waiting for the time when he can get back on the board and have a little fun.
By Chris Chisam