Germany coach hit by bobsleigh

Germany coach hit by bobsleigh
By Reuters

30/11/2005 at 15:19Updated

Germany's head bobsleigh coach suffered multiple fractures after he was hit at high speed during a practice session for the Winter Olympics on Wednesday. Raimund Bethge, Germany's most successful bob coach, was standing on the track in the Alpine village

An Australian two-man bob ran over him on curve nine.

Bethge was flown to San Giovanni Bosco hospital in Turin which said he had suffered injuries to the head and both legs. Media reported Bethge had been operated on.

Games organisers TOROC said Bethge was on the ice 30 minutes after it should have been cleared for the first practice run of the day.

The accident had echoes of Germany's preparation for the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer when the then-head luge coach Sepp Lenz was hit in Winterberg. He lost his left leg below the knee.

"For the German team this is a catastrophe. It's a real blow because Raimund was in charge of everything and he's led the team to victory for 15 years," former German bob champion and television commentator Christoph Langen said.

The bob and luge events are traditionally one of Germany's strengths at Winter Games. At Salt Lake City in 2002, they won the men's four- and two-man bob gold medals, plus gold, silver and bronze in the women's individual luge.

Hopes were high for similar success at the Turin Olympics, which run from Feb. 10 to 26.

Bethge, who had to give up his own career in 1979 after a serious bus crash, has run the team since 1990.

The women's team stopped training after the accident but planned to hit the ice in the afternoon.

"The boss is missing and it's a terrible shock," said team physiotherapist Bernd Fischer.

At test events earlier this year at the Cesana track, several teams crashed and injured themselves, including Brazilian Renato Mizoguchi who suffered serious head injuries and was in hospital for more than a month.