Whether it’s the Summer or Winter Olympic Games, the competitions exist to recognize the sporting achievements of the greatest athletes on Earth. And from Joannie Rochette emotional figure skating performance just four days after losing her mo, to the US hockey team’s ‘Miracle on Ice’ in 1980, to the wonderful underdog story of Jamaica’s bobsled team, the Winter games certainly has had its fair share of inspirational and triumphant moments.
However, competing in undoubtedly some of the most dangerous sports known to man, and on some of the harshest terrains, people can get hurt – especially when they’re all so desperate to achieve gold. In fact, eight years ago at the 2010 Vancouver games, Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili died tragically during a practice run.
It’s a testament to just how fine the line can be between being remembered for glory, or tragedy.
Now, on a day when all eyes were on Team USA’s snowboarding legend Shaun White and whether he could snatch his third Winter Olympics gold medal in the men’s halfpipe, viewers were reminded at just how much danger these athletes put themselves in.
During the final of the men’s halfpipe, the event was cut short when 16-year-old Yuto Totsuka crashed hard.
Many of the competitors in the South Korean games fell during their first runs today, but it was the second run which saw Totsuka suffer a gut-wrenching crash that immediately brought the crowd to a stunned silence.
The commentators described the incident as one of the worst they had seen in the history of the games.
Take a look for yourselves:
After ascending the pipe, the teenage Olympian strayed too far over the edge, and after pulling off a series of impressive spins, he came crashing down 16 feet, landing directly on the edge of the halfpipe. However, Totsuka ordeal was not over, as he then fell a further 22 feet down the slope, where he laid in agony as medics rushed to his side.
Despite clearly being in pain, Totsuka was able to sit up as paramedics treated him.
The Japanese snowboarder was then loaded onto a snowmobile and removed from the track in order to undergo further tests.
After a brief delay to allow the track to be cleared, the contest was resumed, with fellow Team Japan’s Ayumu Hirano taking the lead from White going into the third and final run.
Despite going into the third round in second place, White fell to his knees when the judges’ final scores revealed him to be the winner of the event, as he was once again crowned the Winter Olympic champion.
And in more good news, despite how dangerousTotsuka’s fall looked, a press officer from Team Japan has reportedly said Totsuka managed to escape with only minor hip pain:
It’s been a day where we’ve seen something magical and something horrific on the snow, which is why viewers should never take this remarkable games and these remarkable athletes for granted – as they’re literally willing to put their lives on the line just to clinch the victory.