Luge officials: Olympic luge track crash was ‘human error’

Sports

The International Luge Federation said Thursday that “human error” caused a Polish athlete to crash and suffer serious leg injuries in a training run this week at the track built for this winter’s Beijing Olympics.

Mateusz Sochowicz crashed into a gate that should have been open to allow him clear passage down the chute during his run. He needed surgery to repair a cracked left kneecap and stitches to repair a very deep cut on his right leg, injuries that are expected to keep him in a Chinese hospital until early next week.

The FIL didn’t release specific details of the human error, although said it, “together with the track operator in Yanqing, has introduced additional track safety measures for Beijing 2022 after the Sochowicz accident.”

Sochowicz has not abandoned hope of recovering in time to compete at the Olympics in February.

“Overall it’s OK, only the legs are scarred. … A lot of unnecessary work before me, and we’ll see what comes out of it,” Sochowicz wrote on Facebook this week.

Sliders are given an “all-clear” signal at the top of the track before beginning their run. Track workers are supposed to determine nothing or no one is in the chute before giving that signal, since sliders who can reach speeds in excess of 80 mph (129 kph) often have no way of stopping quickly or avoiding surprise impediments.

It’s unlikely, even if Sochowicz had seen the barrier, he would’ve had enough time to react and somehow avoid the crash.

Skeleton and bobsled athletes from around the world spent a couple of weeks at the track last month, almost all seeing the facility for the first time. Luge athletes arrived in China last week for a few weeks of training, and they’ll open their World Cup season there later this month.

The 25-year-old Sochowicz was 20th in last season’s World Cup rankings and competed in the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.

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