The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has launched an investigation after a luge athlete suffered serious injuries at a test event for the Beijing Winter Olympics when slamming into a barrier blocking the track.
Polish luger Mateusz Sochowicz needed surgery after fracturing his kneecap and cutting his other leg to the bone when he hit the barrier at the Yanqing National Sliding Centre, which will also host bobsleigh and skeleton events.
Additional safety measures have already been announced, but Sochowicz says the incident could have been a “tragedy”.
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"I got the green light so I moved on. For the first time, I was able to calmly ride these two difficult bends. Suddenly, however, I saw a closed gate on the track," he told Polish web portal Onet.
I then let the sled out from under me and took the position like a downhill skier. I was hoping that at this speed I would be able to jump over the barrier. However, everything was happening too fast and I didn't have time to bounce.
"That's why my legs are broken, not the rest of my body. If I hadn't reacted, it could have resulted in a tragedy."
Britain’s Brad Hall, who won silver in the two-man bobsleigh test event at the same centre, told Eurosport it was a shock - but not unprecedented.
“It’s happened before, but it’s very uncommon,” he said.
“The problem is when people start higher and lower up the track - different sports have different entry points to join the main part of the track.
They have a barrier that comes across and they forgot to open it up. It's the problem with starting in different areas during the same sessions.
“It doesn’t happen as much in bobsleigh, I’m not sure what happened but I hope it doesn’t happen again.”
The IOC will now scrutinise the track, with Juan Antonio Samaranch, head of the coordination commission for the Beijing Olympics, saying the organisation is in touch with Sochowicz.
"It's a most unfortunate situation," he said on Wednesday morning.
"The track, and the circumstances under which this accident happened, are being investigated by both the (luge) federation and the organising committee very seriously.
"If there are lessons to be learned, as probably there will, we will implement them and have plenty of time to implement”.
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