|ESPN.com: Skiing||[Print without images]|
|Staff members and medical assistants attend to Canada's Nik Zoricic after a fatal crash Saturday during a World Cup skicross race in Switzerland.|
“Gartner, when asked about the Grindelwald course setting, said "lots of races" place a jump close to the finish line. Zoricic raced on the World Cup circuit for more than three years and was competing in his 36th event Saturday. He placed fifth in last season's World Cup standings, and eighth in the 2011 World Championships held at Deer Valley, Utah. Zoricic's teammate Ashleigh McIvor won gold for the host nation when it debuted as an Olympic sport at the 2010 Vancouver Games. "It's probably just as safe doing our sport as driving down the highway," McIvor said in a conference call. "I don't think the finger should be pointed at any of the organization." Lewis acknowledged the potential danger in skicross, calling it "a high-risk sport." "Any sport where you put on a helmet, there is a reason for it," Lewis said. "This was a World Cup competition where they were racing for positions. It was about trying to go as fast as possible." Grindelwald has been a venue on the skicross World Cup circuit since 2005. The Swiss village beneath the Eiger and Jungfrau mountain peaks was hosting a meet for the fifth straight year. Organizers canceled the World Cup events for men and women on Saturday, along with the World Cup Finals races on Sunday. "We are all very sad. It is unbelievable for us all," Christoph Egger, president of the race organizing committee, told the AP by telephone. "We are an experienced organizer but, nevertheless, skicross is a sport where four racers fight to win a race. "In these circumstances there is a risk to fall or risk of injury, and since today we know there is a risk for death." Egger said it was a "surprise" to see Zoricic's line of flight off the jump, but added: "We put the fences there because you have to protect the racers for the finish area." According to Gartner, Zoricic was "a model athlete" who began in Alpine racing before switching to skicross. "He's an extremely dedicated, quiet young man who has gone about his business and found his home in skicross. It was a pleasure to work with him and know him," Gartner said. Zoricic was born in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, one year before the city hosted the 1984 Winter Games as part of the former Yugoslavia. He moved to Canada at 5, where his father, Bebe, became an established Alpine coach at the Craigleith Ski Club in Ontario. Canadian Alpine racer Kelly VanderBeek posted on Twitter that she grew up skiing with Zoricic and his father. "I'm a mess, so I can only imagine how his family is. I'm so very sorry. Sending Love," she wrote. U.S. racer Ted Ligety also posted a message of condolence on Twitter soon after winning a World Cup giant slalom race in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia. "Skiing is a great sport that gives but it also takes, sad day to lose Nick Zoricic, you'll be missed bud," Ligety wrote. Organizers at Grindelwald helped provide grief counselors for the Canadian team, who were holding a candlelit memorial service for Zoricic in the course finish area on Saturday evening. "The skicross team is a very tight-knit group," Gartner said. "There is going to be a very intimate ceremony."
Any sport where you put on a helmet, there is a reason for it. This was a World Cup competition where they were racing for positions. It was about trying to go as fast as possible.” -- FIS secretary general Sarah Lewis