Cross country course cleared on safety grounds

By Mark Lamport-Stokes

WHISTLER (Reuters) - Officials found no grounds for concern following Slovenia's complaint about the "dangerous" condition of the Olympic cross country course after one of their skiers suffered four broken ribs following a fall.

Petra Majdic plunged down a hill into a gully while training before the 1.4km sprint at Whistler Olympic Park on Wednesday but went on to compete in three qualifying races to claim a bronze medal.

"The competition jury conducted a full review of the incident which was available on a feed from the host broadcaster," FIS (International Ski Federation) said in a statement on Saturday.

"In the opinion of the jury, the corner in which the accident occurred skied well and did not present unusual risks. No other incidents occurred in the section of the course during training or the competition.

"FIS sincerely regrets the injuries caused to Petra Majdic as a result of her accident and wishes her a full and speedy return to fitness and cross-country skiing."

Slovenian team spokesman Branislav Dmitrovic had earlier told Reuters a protest had been filed with the IOC (International Olympic Committee), VANOC (Games organizers) and FIS because of "too dangerous" track conditions.

"Circumstances on the course were completely different from the previous days," he said. The course was icy and real fast and that caused some danger.

"It was a terrible blow for Petra who is now out for the rest of the Olympics."

Dmitrovic said Majdic went to hospital on Wednesday night after being helped to the podium.

HOSPITAL RELEASE

"They found that four ribs were broken but she is expected to be released from hospital later today," he added.

Tim Gayda, VANOC vice president in charge of sports, told reporters: "It is just one of those unfortunate things that happened in an area that no one felt there could be a crash on that site. We have looked and have made adjustments."

Former Norwegian Olympic skier Vegard Ulvang, chairman of the cross country committee for FIS, told Reuters: "We didn't fence it off and we should have done but there are no rules that all of a cross country course should be fenced off.

"The place where she fell ... she didn't follow the ideal line," added Ulvang, who won three gold medals in cross country skiing at the 1992 Albertville Games.

"It was nine meters wide there and in the competition you would have been four meters away from that hole and you would still have time to avoid going there. But it happened and of course that hole will be protected next time."

Majdic, one of the favorites for women's sprint, told a news conference on Wednesday she had hit a patch of ice on a corner and slid off the course during a warmup run.

"There was a big hole. I fell three meters. I fell on rocks. I broke one ski and both poles. I was screaming," the 30-year-old said while continuously wincing in pain.

"I was thinking: 'It's over.' I thought it was over because I couldn't normally breathe or walk, or move."

(Additional reporting by Karolos Grohmann in Vancouver, editing by Ed Osmond)