Canada’s Olympians are willing to do whatever it takes to be the first to cross the finish line at the Sochi Games. But the pursuit of a gold medal has athletes pushing themselves further and faster than ever before and this can put them at risk of serious injuries.

The risks are all too familiar for alpine skier Jan Hudec, who will be competing in Sochi. He’s had some painful career-threatening wipeouts while travelling down the hill at anywhere from 50 to 160 kilometres an hour.

“I’m often afraid,” he says.

Jan Hudec

Canadian Olympian Jan Hudec had some painful career-threatening wipeouts while travelling downhill at anywhere from 50 to 160 kilometres an hour during alpine ski competitions. (Marco Trovati/AP)

“Always in the back of your mind, there’s always the possibility of crashing. And I think the higher the speed is, I think the more you start thinking about it.”

For Hudec and other athletes like him, a balance has to be found between the need for speed and the need for safety. 

Watch Peter Mansbridge’s report for The National on athletes pushing their limits in the media player at the top of this page.