Saskatoon skeleton racer Evan Neufeldt says Air Canada hurt his chances of competing at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, after his $15,000 customized sled went missing for three days during the training week before a qualifying race.
Neufeldt's sled disappeared as he travelled from Saskatoon to St. Moritz, Switzerland on Dec. 29, where he is scheduled to compete Jan. 4-5 in the International Cup, he said.
The 30-year-old said he was reunited with the sled, which he describes as being like an old friend, early Tuesday morning after it was located in Toronto on Monday afternoon. In the mean time, he had been using equipment borrowed from other racers.
But he said the loss of training time has put him at a "major disadvantage."
"These races decide [if I go to] the Olympics or not," said Neufeldt, who is ranked third in Canada and has been on the national team since 2013.
Neufeldt claims the airline also misplaced luggage belonging to two of his Canadian teammates, including another sled that has since been returned.
Borrowing equipment to practice
Neufeldt said he was amazed by the support of competitors from France, Austria, Sweden and Ghana, who have offered the use of their sleds, he added.
But skeleton racing is a precision sport and using borrowed equipment, even for the practice runs, put him at a disadvantage, said Neufeldt.
He keeps books full of notes on every minute he uses the missing sled, adding that finding a borrowed sled he can use will be like trying on shoes to see if they fit.
"Whether I have the same sled as another competitor, none of them are set up the same to respond to my actions, to my steering, and I've spent two years fine-tuning everything about this sled to my body," Neufeldt said.
"This is a game of precision at 130 to 140 kilometres per hour."
Make or break
Neufeldt said Canada is currently the third-ranked nation behind Germany and Russia. Neufeldt is part of Canada's four-person team, but he's competing for the third of a possible three places at the Olympics. If a teammate surpasses him, he would miss out on a shot at the Games. If Neufeldt loses points, the team may not qualify at all for a third sled in Pyeongchang.
CBC News has contacted Air Canada for comment.