SPORTS

Athletes death a reminder of risk in sport, says head of Olympic committee

03/13/2012 03:20 EDT | Updated 05/13/2012 05:12 EDT
OTTAWA - The head of the Canadian Olympic Committee says the death of two Canadian skiers in the last three months is a reminder of the element of risk inherent in competitive sport.

Nik Zoricic died from head injuries after flying off the course and crashing in a World Cup skicross event in Grindelwald, Switzerland, on Saturday.

In January, Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke died following a training accident in Utah.

The COC's Marcel Aubut says both were taken too soon.

But Aubut says it's also too soon to be talking about whether the push to include extreme sports like skicross in the Olympics is creating risky conditions for athletes.

"We don't know exactly what happened in those cases," Aubut said. "We're not prepared to comment until we know the facts."

Skicross debuted at the 2010 Olympics, joining snowboard cross in the latest attempt by the International Olympic Committee to bring a more exciting, youthful feel to the Games.

It's known as "NASCAR on skis" and sees four racers tackle a course filled with banks, rolls and ridges.

Burke's sport of ski halfpipe is set to make its debut at the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia.

Appearing in Ottawa for a funding announcement on Tuesday, Aubut asked the crowd to pause for 30 seconds of silence to honour both athletes.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with these two dynamic individuals who in pursuing excellence in sports push themselves to reach for the pinnacle of success," he said.

"In doing so, they have made themselves, their family and their country very proud."

Looking ahead to the 2014 Games in Sochi, Aubut said he remains confident that NHL players will be given the green light to play in those Olympics.

And he said he also believes that Canadians will be able to watch those Games on local television.

In January, the IOC rejected a joint offer from Bell and CBC to broadcast the next Winter Games and the 2016 Summer Games.

Aubut said the offer was rejected because it wasn't high enough but he says he thinks a deal will come together.

"Can you imagine that Canadians will look at NBC to hear what is going on with their own athletes?" he said. "It's not possible."

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