Sochi slopestyle course to be changed after favourite’s fall
Ireland’s Seamus O’Connor among snowboarders to highlight ‘pretty gnarly’ conditions
Norway’s Torstein Horgmo is stretchered off the mountain after injuring him self in the Slopestyle practice. Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA Wire
The Snowboard Slopestyle course at the Extreme Park at Rosa Khutor Mountain in Sochi. Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
The slopestyle snowboarding course at the Sochi Winter Olympic Games will be changed after the Norwegian favourite broke his collarbone during a training run on Monday.
International Ski Federation (FIS) organisers blamed Torstein Horgmo’s injury on the jump he was attempting rather than the course at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park but Ireland’s Seamus O’Connor (16) was among a number of boarders to criticise the facilities after early practice runs.
“He was just trying a really hard trick,” FIS official Roberto Moresi said of Horgmo’s fall.
The Norwegian team coach Per-Iver Grimsrud said: “It was on the first rail element it happened. He was doing a switch hardway, backside 270. He landed wrong on the rail, and then he fell into the stairs to the side.”
The 26-year-old winner the X Games in Big Air in 2013, he added, “did not remember much afterwards, he had the wind knocked out of him. He will probably feel it tomorrow.”
The rails on the course were of particular concern for American-born O’Connor, who urged his fellow competitors to “speak up”.
“The course needs some work,” said the 16-year-old. “They overbuilt the jumps because they were anticipating that the snow would melt. At the moment the riders are not happy. The rails up top are too close. It’s pretty dangerous at the moment. I think it’s definitely going to be a problem for the women. It’s pretty gnarly for them.
“We may see some injuries. I hope not, but the whole course is variable as it is.
“The riders need to speak up about the conditions. The rails can’t be fixed but they can fix the jumps.”
American Charles Guildemond, who set up a snowboarder’s union in 2011, described the jumps on the course as being similar to “dropping out of the sky” and said “some of the guys and girls are intimidated”.
After his practice run Finland’s Roope Tonteri said: “I think they wanted to make big kickers and it’s not really good for riders. It’s not really safe anymore. I just don’t want to get injured.”
At the end of the three-hour practice, male and female competitors gathered together near the finish to discuss the course and what could be done about it.
Course designer and technical adviser Anders Forsell of Sweden insisted only “small adjustments” were necessary and Moresi said feedback from the athletes would be taken into account when making them.
“We’ve been building the course for about a month,” said Forsell. “The weather has been pretty soft, it’s been raining a lot. On a non-tested course you’re always nervous, but it worked out fine. Just some small adjustments.”
FIS official Moresi added: “The way we fix it is to have something bigger and trim it down. We will add to the knuckle (the top part of the jump) and then we’ll take a little off the kicker (the side where the riders take off) in order to make it more smooth.”
Qualifying for the slopestyle event will begin on Thursday, with the opening ceremony for the Sochi Games due to take place on Friday.