Hays bobsleigh dream ended by training crash

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VANCOUVER (Reuters) - American bobsleigh pilot Todd Hays was forced into retirement on Tuesday due to serious brain injuries sustained in a training run crash in Germany.

Hays, who won a silver medal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics to end a 46-year U.S. medal drought in the sport, was originally thought to be suffering from concussion but later diagnosed with a hematoma.

"This is one of the most difficult things I've experienced," Hays said in a statement. "My family and my future are more important than anything and I need to keep that in mind as I consider what's happened.

"This isn't how I wanted to end my career, and I'm devastated because I feel like I'm letting my team down.

"There are three guys in my sled that were counting on me to give them an Olympic ticket. Now I can't do that."

The 40-year-old Texan returned to the sport in 2008 after a two-year hiatus in an attempt to qualify for the U.S. team for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. He started the World Cup season by taking second place in a two-man event in Park City, Utah.

Hays suffered his injuries when he crashed during a four-man training run last week in Winterberg.

(Writing by Steve Keating in Vancouver; Editing by Ed Osmond)