The Winter Olympics in Sochi were brimming with controversy, from hotel mishaps to construction oddities, and worse yet, an abundance of injuries on the slopestyle course.
While the sport was making its first appearance in the Olympic Games and amassing some of the highest ratings, athletes were collecting bumps, bruises and, in several cases, much more serious injuries.
The most buzzed about of all American slope style injuries was Shaun White’s wrist, which resulted in the favorite for gold dropping out of the event. U.S. snowboarder, Ty Walker suffered a bruised heel. Other athletes faced more severe injuries; Torstein Horgmo broke his collarbone on the slopestyle course, Yuki Tsubota crashed and had to be carried off on a stretcher and Sarka Pancochova split her helmet during a fall in competition.
The number and severity of injuries on the course have prompted an International Olympic Committee official to suggest the sport either be made safer or cut from the Olympics entirely. Dr. Lars Engebretsen, head of scientific activities at the IOC's medical and scientific department, said the debut of slopestyle has caused an “unacceptably high” number of injuries in Sochi.
He spoke to the Associated Press and claimed the number of injuries in slopestyle was “much higher than any other sport in Sochi.” He did not state any exact numbers.
"I can say what I feel: That sport should change, otherwise we shouldn't have it. But the IOC may not follow that," Engebretsen said.
Engebretsen said that slopestyle has the potential to lose its spot in the Winter Olympics, however, he said he had a “gut feeling” that the sport will remain on the program for the next Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea in 2018. Engebretsen is not a member of the IOC’s executive board, which is the group responsible for making the final decision.
Another concern of his is that due to the onscreen popularity, amateurs could be tempted to try it.
“Slopestyle is exciting. But it’s just become, right now anyway, too exciting,” he said.
The International Ski Federation works with the IOC to ensure the Winter Olympic Games are safe and successful. Responding to Engebretsen’s comments, FIS Secretary General Sarah Lewis said, “In regard to the slopestyle events that took place in Sochi, it would be premature to comment on the quantity and quality of injuries that occurred as the full IOC Injury and Illness Surveillance Study conducted by the IOC Medical Commission has not yet been finalized.” She also noted that Engebretsen had been making “apparently personal comments which do not represent the position of the IOC.”