As friends and family mourn the death of Canadian skicross competitor Nik Zoricic, his teammates say they never noticed anything dangerous about the World Cup course where he died.
Zoricic, 29, died from head injuries suffered after slamming into the safety nets near the final jump of Saturday’s fourth heat of the skicross finals in Grindelwald, Switzerland. Zoricic’s Canadian skicross teammates Chris Del Bosco and Dave Duncan said they didn’t notice anything unsafe in previous runs or course inspections about the final jump.
Duncan, who grew up with Zoricic skiing in Ontario’s Collingwood area, said his teammate and friend “had a zest for life” and a “fire in his belly” when it came to competition.
His teammates and coach said the skicross community came out to celebrate Zoricic on Sunday morning on the course, some wearing blue jeans in memory of his first skicross race in a pre-Olympic event at Vancouver’s Cypress Mountain.
“He didn’t really have any race pants to wear,” head coach Eric Archer said, recalling Zoricic’s “baggy” ski pants. “He decided to get a little bit more aerodynamic and the best thing he could think of was blue jeans.”
The athletes and coaches said a few words at the top of the course in Sunday’s vigil and then skied down to the final jump where they picked up flowers to place at the finish line as they all said their goodbyes.
“It was a beautiful thing,” Archer said. “They would know what Nik would want us to do and not have this knock us down.”
While Alpine Canada’s Max Gartner has said that a full investigation will be held into the “freak accident,” the skicross team’s head coach said Sunday that every course has a little spot where coaches and officials might raise some concerns, but are addressed in inspections and training runs.
Former downhiller Brooker told CBC News after the crash that he believed the Swiss skicross course was too difficult. ”In my view, that jump was way too big to have that close to the finish line,” Brooker stated. ”And it posed one of the biggest challenges but also the biggest risks on that course. To me, it just wasn’t right.”
International Ski Federation secretary general Sarah Lewis said Zoricic’s death is “a terrible, tragic accident” and insisted “all the safety measures were in place.” Officials immediately abandoned the race and cancelled Sunday’s World Cup events. Alpine Canada grief counsellors were meeting with skiers.
Friends and family have expressed shock at Zoricic’s death. Zoricic’s father, Predrag Bebe Zoricic, said in a statement that there are no regrets from anyone because his son did what he loved to do.