Snowboardcross racer dies training at Lake Placid 

Second death in two years raises questions about safety of sport

The snowboard world was stunned Sunday by the news that Swedish rider Jonatan Johansson was killed in a training run at the Lake Placid World Cup.

According to Canadian coach Rene Brunner, "He died on impact. He had a horrible crash and hit his head and back very hard. He didn’t stand a chance, even with a helmet. He was never revived."

Johansson, 25, was a promising rider who finished 12 th in the Olympics last month.

The snowboardcross course on Whiteface Mountain was described as extremely fast and icy.

Quebec rider Dominique Maltais, a bronze medalist at the Torino snowboardcross, had earlier warned her teammates about the course.

"On Saturday morning we were on blue ice. I couldn’t control my board. It was going faster than I was," she said. "In the section that Johansson fell I would slow down because I knew if I went full speed I would be catapulted into the air. I wasn’t interested in that.

"I love my sport but when it gets to the point that people are killed, it’s not cool."

Maltais also called on the FIS to cancel the rest of the season.

"Everyone is tired. No one is motivated," she said.

The only event remaining this season is the World Cup finals in Furano, Japan March 17-19.

The Lake Placid race was cancelled as a result of Johansson’s death, and questions are again being raised about the safety of the sport. It was the second snowboardcross death in two years, after Line Ostvold died of a head injury in September of 2004 while training for a World Cup in Valle Nevado, Chile.

There was also a death in the late 1990s, but that was the result of organizers using rigid metal poles in the finish area instead of bamboo or plastic poles. Since then FIS standards specify the types of safety fencing that can be used in competitions.

While courses have arguably become a lot safer as a result of FIS standards, sometimes a sudden change in snow conditions can create havoc. At a snowboardcross in Switzerland earlier this season at least seven riders were injured and had to be evacuated by helicopter, including Canadian rider Rob Fagan with a knee injury. Several other Canadian riders who had already qualified for the Torino Olympics elected not to compete in the event after pre-riding the course because they decided it was too risky.

Jayson Hale and Shaun Palmer, two of the top American riders, were injured while training for the Olympics this year, and won’t be back until next season.

Canada was having a good weekend at Lake Placid before the tragedy.

Jasey-Jay Anderson had qualified second in snowboardcross the previous day, and Tom Velisek, Drew Neilson, Francois Boivin and Rob Fagan (returning from injury) qualified in the top-32.

Three Canadians qualified for the women’s final, including Dominique Maltais, Maëlle Ricker and Erin Simmons.

In halfpipe the previous day Hugo Lemay pulled off his best ever World Cup performance, finishing fifth. Teammates Brad Martin and Justin Lamoureux also finished in the top-10, winding up eighth and ninth respectively. Sarah Conrad, Mercedes Nicoll and Maëlle Ricker were ninth, 12 th and 16 th for the women.

In the Parallel GS on Friday, Canada’s Alexa Loo earned her second-best World Cup result with a fourth place finish.


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