Swiss bobsledder in recovery following emergency surgery

Bobsled training
Bobsled training Copyright Oksana Dzadan/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Oksana Dzadan/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved
By Euronews with AP
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After crashing on Tuesday, while training for the upcoming World Cup races in Altenberg, Sandro Michel had to go to the hospital for emergency surgery.


Swiss bobsled athlete Sandro Michel is recovering from emergency surgery, his team said Wednesday, after a training crash that has left some sledders considering whether it's safe or appropriate to compete in World Cup races this weekend.

Michel was the brakeman at the back of a four-man sledge piloted by Michael Vogt that crashed on Tuesday during training. 

He was tossed from his seat and was still on the ice when the vehicle slid back down the icy chute. The International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation said Michel was "run over by the bobsleigh, which was uncontrollably sliding back from the finish area".

Michel lost consciousness in the crash, in which his leg, hip, thigh and chest were all hurt. He was airlifted from the track to a hospital about 120 kilometres away in Dresden because of the severity of his injuries, the team and IBSF officials said.

It is not known how fast the sled was going when it crashed, but some others during training sessions on Tuesday were reaching speeds as high as 129 kilometres per hour. 

The Swiss team said Vogt “suffered a severe concussion and bruises”, while teammates Dominik Hufschmid and Andreas Haas also sustained slight injuries.

Vogt and Michel are an experienced team who placed fourth at the 2022 Beijing Olympics in two-man bob and took bronze at the world championships last year.

The pair won a World Cup race in December and are third in the season-long standings. Vogt’s four-man bob crew is fourth in that discipline’s World Cup standings.

More security in sliding sports

The crash left athletes from many countries shaken as the weekend's events approach.

“If this was one of my teammates I certainly would not want to be competing in a World Cup like everything is normal,” British bobsledder Greg Cackett wrote on social media.

On his company's Instagram story, he added: “I think the race should be cancelled, our friends in the Swiss team should be allowed time to come to terms with what's happened, IBSF and global tracks should communicate what they're going to do about this and we can all refocus on the world champs.”

So far, training sessions are scheduled to go on as normal, and the IBSF announced the races will go ahead this weekend.

Event organisers have begun plans that will be presented at a meeting scheduled for Friday where safety concerns will be discussed.

One of the questions expected to be raised includes why no mechanisms were in place to immobilise the bobsled once it began rolling back towards the unconscious athlete.

Safety has been a major talking point in sliding sports for years, particularly after some high-profile incidents such as the death of Georgian luge competitor Nodar Kumaritashvili in a training run hours before the opening ceremony of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

In 2012, Canadian bobsledder Chris Spring crashed into the roof of the Altenberg track and suffered severe puncture wounds. And in 2021, Polish luger Mateusz Sochowicz was seriously injured when he crashed into a metal gate that was inexplicably blocking the track during a training run in China.

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