American luger Emily Sweeney appeared to have a strong start in the final heat of her competition, but as she rounded Curve 9, the track’s most treacherous spot, she lost control.
Sweeney’s sled began careening all over the track and she wound up sliding feet-first up one curve toward the track roof before getting thrown and eventually tumbling to a stop.
The raucous crowd went silent as Sweeney was slow to get up.
It took several minutes for Sweeney to get to her feet, then several more before she could finally start a slow walk to the finish area — surrounded by team and on-site medical personnel.
The team doctor said Sweeney, 24, suffered bumps and bruises and no broken bones. She was taken to the hospital as a precautionary measure.
“I’m OK,” she told reporters in the mixed zone.
“I’m very sore and pretty stiff,” Sweeney told NBC. “I’m going to get an X-ray on my back after this, but I wanted to have the last word. So thanks for all the support, you guys. It’s a bummer, for sure, and I know that I’m better than that. But here were are. It happens.”
This was the first Olympics for Sweeney, who missed out on a spot in the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
Sweeney, who is also a member of the National Guard, also missed a spot in the 2010 Winter Olympics after losing a special race-off to her big sister, Megan Sweeney.
Curve 9 has been a problem for sliders throughout the early portion of the Olympics, causing many to skid, lose control and lose some time. Crashes, however, have not come as often as they did in the 2006 and 2010 Games, both of which left athletes openly complaining about track safety.
"I've never been so relieved than when I saw her getting up and walking," said American teammate Summer Britcher, who was choking back tears.
Later in the final run, Britcher lost control at the start and collided with a few walls — but got down the track without crashing or sustaining serious injury.
Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger won gold and American Erin Hamlin finished sixth.
The Associated Press contributed to this reported.