Family of dead Canadian skicrosser 'vindicated' by enhanced course safety
Monday, Mar 10, 2014 02:15 pm
TORONTO - The family of a Canadian skicross racer killed two years ago at a World Cup event feels vindicated now that sport authorities no longer blame him for the tragedy and instead have made safety improvements to course design, their lawyer said Monday.
Lawyer Tim Danson said the family of Nik Zoricic feels his legacy has become something positive and to be celebrated.
"We were not prepared to accept that Nik was responsible for his own death," Danson told The Canadian Press.
"We just wanted the truth to be acknowledged."
In the immediate aftermath of his fatal crash at an event in Grindelwald, Switzerland, on March 10, 2012, ski officials angered the family and others in the skiing community by suggesting Zoricic, 29, was to blame for his death.
The family responded by arguing the death was "entirely avoidable" and blasted the course finish line for being a "death trap."
In a letter to his parents this month, the International Ski Federation (FIS) called Zoricic a "talented, experienced, and skilled" World Cup skier who did not take unnecessary risks.
"It would therefore not be right to describe his accident as a 'freak accident' or 'pilot error,' the federation's president and secretary general wrote.
The letter further states that the federation has updated its safety guidelines and beefed up the staff and experts who help organizers construct a course and its safety measures.
In skicross, several racers hurtle down a mountain at the same time, making jumps and taking curves on the way.
Zoricic, who grew up in Toronto, had raced on the World Cup circuit for more than three years and was competing in his 36th event in Grindelwald when he was killed at the finish line of a tight three-way race.
Video showed he was going as fast as 90 km/h when he veered to the right after the final jump, landing about a metre to the right of the official course line in "crud" rather than on a groomed shoulder.
He snagged safety netting and tumbled into hard-packed snow, smashing his head.
Among more stringent guidelines now in place is one calling for a much greater distance between the finish-line post and fencing.
Hard objects, such as large mounds of packed snow, will no longer be allowed near the finish.
"The fact that we're making these significant changes is that there really are lessons learned from his death that will hopefully mean this kind of tragedy will never happen again," Danson said.
The International Ski Federation also said it would commit $250,000 over five years to the Nik Zoricic Foundation, which aims to improve skicross safety.
Neither Zoricic's father Bebe, himself a veteran ski coach, nor his mother Silvia were immediately available to comment.
Danson said it was a "difficult time" for them given the second anniversary of their son's death, but said they were "delighted" their son had been vindicated.
At the Sochi Olympics last month, Canadian skicross racers wore denim-style ski pants as a tribute to their late teammate, who was known for wearing jeans on the mountain.
Zoricic was born in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina and moved with his father to Canada at age 5.
He raced on the World Cup circuit for more than three years, placing fifth in the 2010-11 World Cup standings and eighth in the season's world championship at Deer Valley, Utah.