Polish luger Mateusz Sochowicz said his accident while training on the Olympic track near Beijing on Monday could have resulted in “tragedy” if he had not taken evasive action to try to avoid a closed barrier.
Sochowicz fractured his left kneecap and cut his right leg to the bone after hitting the barrier at the Yanqing National Sliding Centre that will be used for the Beijing Olympics in February.
The 25-year-old, who represented Poland at the 2018 Winter Olympics, said the track team had been slow to react and he had spent half an hour on the ice before being transported to hospital for surgery.
“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.”
The International Luge Federation (FIL) acknowledged that there had been a “luge accident” on Monday afternoon which had resulted in Sochowicz being taken to hospital.
Reuters has requested comment from FIL and the 2022 Beijing Organising Committee (BOCOG).
“The track team showed great incompetence,” Sochowicz added.
“They didn’t know what to do at all. Someone came to me and tried to touch my (exposed) bone with a glove. Dante-esque scenes were happening there.”
Despite his injuries, Sochowicz said he had not given up on competing in his second Olympics in February.
“I’m not canceling myself yet. I hope to start in Beijing. If the FIL gave me a wild card and I could focus only on recovery, maybe there would be a chance,” he told Onet.
“However, there is a bigger problem. I don’t know if I will be able to rebuild mentally. I don’t know if I will ever be able to go on this track, I would be afraid that something might be waiting for me just around the corner.”
At the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Georgian Nodar Kumaritashvili was killed during training on the luge run after losing control at high speed and being thrown over the sidewall of the track and into a steel support pole.