February 23rd, 2024

Injured downhill star Kilde calls for better World Cup race-day schedules to protect athletes

By Graham Dunbar, The Associated Press on February 1, 2024.

GENEVA (AP) – Skiers must be consulted about better World Cup race-day schedules to help protect them from injuries, downhill star Aleksander Aamodt Kilde said Thursday.

The former overall World Cup champion and two-time Olympic medalist spoke out in his first call with international media since a shocking Jan. 13 crash on the storied Wengen downhill ended his season.

“It’s super important that we look at something that’s more sustainable,” Kilde said in an online call from his winter base in Austria where he expects to spend several weeks using a wheelchair. “We as athletes need to speak up.”

The 31-year-old Norwegian is among a slew of World Cup, Olympic and world champions to crash hard in a packed January program, including his partner Mikaela Shiffrin. The American standout women’s skier is chasing a women’s record-equaling sixth overall World Cup title.

Kilde hit the fences at the last turn of the longest downhill of the season when racing for the third straight day, and after two third-place results loaded his schedule with media and public events.

His injuries were reported as a dislocated shoulder and lacerated calf though both were more serious than first seemed.

Kilde explained he posted a vivid photograph of his leg injury on social media to help people understand the severity. He got calls and messages from people congratulating him that the injuries were not more severe and hoping to see him race again soon.

“I was like: “˜No, you won’t!'” he said Thursday, adding the photo included in an Instagram slide show was aimed at “getting sort of respect around my injury that I feel like I needed.”

Kilde is renowned as one of the strongest and hardest working ski racers, though he acknowledged his future is unclear.

“It’s too early for me to say whether I’ll be able to ski the way I want to and win races again,” he said, adding his first focus is on just walking again. “I’m pretty positive it’s going to be all good in the end.”

Kilde wants to be heard by race organizers including the International Ski and Snowboard Federation.

Currently, a top skier’s day can start before sunrise and include inspecting the hill, racing, post-race ceremonies and media work at the course. Later, there is a televised evening event typically in a town square for another trophy presentation, media interviews and presenting start bibs for the next day’s race.

“We have to sit down with the people involved with this and see what we can do better for the upcoming years,” he said. “We don’t have any room to lose anybody.”

Kilde agreed that new technology like cut-proof layers of clothing can help protect athletes.

Also sidelined for the season are: Alexis Pinturault, the 2021 overall World Cup champion one year after Kilde; Marco Schwarz, who led the overall standings when he crashed Dec. 28; and Petra Vlhova, the women’s overall champion three years ago.

Most recently, Valerie Grenier, from St. Isidore, Ont., sustained a fractured humerus, a torn cruciate ligament and a partial medial collateral ligament tear following a serious crash during a World Cup super-G race Sunday in Cortina D’Ampezzo, Italy. The crash came two days after she finished in a three-way tie for third to pick up her fourth career World Cup medal and first in downhill.

Shiffrin crashed in the downhill at Cortina d’Ampezzo, which will host women’s races at the 2026 Olympics. She avoided serious injury though is taking time off racing to recover.

“That’s been very, very nice,” Kilde said of spending more time with his partner, “but also a little bit stupid to have this situation where we’re both injured.

“It’s a risky sport and we know the consequences of crashing.”

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AP skiing: https://apnews.com/hub/skiing

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