Polish luger Mateusz Sochowicz has posted a cartoon of an injured and disgruntled looking dove in a wheelchair on his Instagram page with the caption “China Export”.
The post comes following the 25-year-old athlete’s training run crash and subsequent injuries suffered at the future Olympic track in Yanqing on Nov. 8th. Sochowicz and Polish team members said the incident was caused by substantial negligence on the part of the Chinese track staff.
Sochowicz is recovering in a Chinese hospital having undergone surgery on his right knee and his return to competition remains in question.
International Luge Federation executive director Christoph Schweiger and Polish team coach Marek Skowronski visited Sochowicz in the hospital on Thursday.
“Mateusz is receiving very good medical care at the university hospital in Yanqing – he is getting excellent care,” Schweiger said, in a statement provided to ATR.
“The accident is due to human error,” the FIL official admitted, following an investigation. “Yesterday, we had the last conversation with the track operators and with the Beijing 2022 Organizing Committee. The plans for the return transport of Mateusz Sochowicz home are in full swing”.
Sochowicz crashed into a closed barrier on the sliding track despite having received a green light signaling for him to start his run. He was said to be traveling at a speed between 50 to 60 kilometers per hour, as it was fortunate that the incident occurred near the top of the track where speeds are significantly slower.
Members of his fellow luge community and others have reached out to Sochowicz wishing him the best after the unfortunate incident.
U.S. luger and 2018 Olympic silver medalist Chris Mazdzer, who is recovering from his own injury at home in the States, wrote to Sochowicz on his Instagram: “At least your wings are not broken and you will fly again soon!!! I’m thinking of you and wishing you a speed recovery.”
Four-time Olympic champion from Germany Natalie Geisenberger wrote to the Polish athlete: “Thinking of you! Come back stronger!”
Sochowicz, a 2018 Olympian, explained his account of what happened to Polish media, claiming that the track crew “showed great incompetence” responding to the crash and the situation could have been significantly worse.
“On this track, the first two turns are a big problem,” Sochowicz told Polish media. “I got the green light so I moved on and for the first time, I was able to calmly ride these two difficult bends.
“Suddenly, however, I saw a closed gate on the track. I then let the sled out from under me and took the position like a downhill skier.
“I was hoping that at this speed I would be able to jump over the barrier. However, everything was happening too fast and I didn’t have time to react.
“That’s why my legs are broken, not the rest of my body. If I hadn’t reacted, it could have led to a tragedy,” he said.
Polish head coach Marek Skowronski also made strong accusations towards Chinese officials.
“It’s more important that someone doesn’t get Covid than the safety of participants,” Skowronski told Polish news portal Onet.pl. “What they did is scandalous.”
Following an investigation by the International Luge Federation, in cooperation with Beijing 2022 staff and after further consultation with the Polish team, the FIL informed that track procedures are being amended and new safety measures implemented.
Beijing 2022 organizers said the FIL and the venue operational team “carried out a thorough check of the track and adapted the arrangement of the training” as a result of the mishap.
IOC coordination commission chair for Beijing 2022 Juan Antonio Samaranch addressed the situation responding to a question from Around the Rings earlier this week.
“We have expressed all of our sympathy and support for the athlete in this unfortunate situation, and together with FIL, the International Luge Federation, the organizing committee and the Polish Olympic Committee, we are discussing how we can be as supportive as possible,” Samaranch said.
Sochowicz, who finished 27th in the men’s singles event at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympics, remains hopeful that he will be able to compete at the Beijing Games in February.
International lugers continue their training at the Yanqing sliding venue in preparation for the season-opening EBERSPÄCHER World Cup races, Nov. 19-21. Germany’s Felix Loch and Geisenberger will hit the ice in defense of their 2020-21 overall World Cup titles.
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