Ski Champ Stable But In Coma After Bad Crash

Ever since watching “Wide World of Sports” as a little kid, I’ve been fascinated by downhill skiing, even though I’m a lousy skier myself. I’m also a big auto racing fan, which tells you that I love speed. And despite what most racing fans will tell you, I’m like everyone else: I love seeing crashes. They are spectacular, mesmerizing and engrossing. Of course, you always want to see the skier or driver walk away, which is frequently the most amazing part of it all.

Medical personnel reach Daniel Albrecht

What you don’t want is a crash like the one that befell world champion skiier Daniel Albrecht three days ago while training for the downhill race in Kitzbuehel, Austria. The race is known as the Hahnenkahm and is the fastest and most dangerous course on the circuit. And Albrecht became its latest victim, suffering a horrific crash at the final jump. The CANADIAN PRESS reports that he remains in a coma in an Austrian hospital, but doctors said today that they are confident he will make a full recovery.

Video of Albrecht’s crash after the jump:

Albrecht’s crash is eerily similar to the one suffered by American downhiller Scott Macartney at the exact same spot almost one year ago to the day during last year’s race. Macartney missed most of last season dealing with the after-effects of the crash, and his attempt to race the Hahnenkahm this year were thwarted by a knee injury. Here’s Macartney’s crash for a comparison:

There have been several significant crashes in World Cup skiing in the past 12 months. Along with Macartney and Albrecht, Austrian Matthias Lanzinger had the lower part of his left leg amputated after a crash in March 2008.

Which raises a question: are skiers going too fast for their own safety? With advances in technology and training, the top speeds that downhill skiers can race today would make Jean-Claude Killy’s skis break in two. If NASCAR puts restrictor plates on cars at superspeedways to reign in the speed, maybe it’s time for skiing to take measures to slow down the speeds. Or perhaps shortening or changing the courses is the answer, like drag racing did after the death of Scott Kalitta.

Whatever the answer, it might be time something gets done. Crashes are fascinating. Serious injuries aren’t.