What can we learn from Nik Zoricic's death? | Skiing | CBC Sports

SkiingWhat can we learn from Nik Zoricic's death?

Posted: Friday, March 16, 2012 | 09:42 AM

Back to accessibility links
Nik Zoricic died from head injuries suffered in a crash during a World Cup skicross race in Switzerland on March 10. Here, fellow skiier Kelly Vanderbeek remembers her friend. Nik Zoricic died from head injuries suffered in a crash during a World Cup skicross race in Switzerland on March 10. Here, fellow skiier Kelly Vanderbeek remembers her friend.

Beginning of Story Content

Alone at my home in B.C., I scour the internet for anything to hold onto. I try to cling to the community that I've laughed with, cried with, and grown with. I'm searching for a reason, for support, for a sense of understanding why someone like Nik Zoricic would be taken so young, doing what he loved best - skiing.   

Alone at my home in B.C., I scour the internet for anything to hold onto. I try to cling to the community that I've laughed with, cried with, and grown with. I'm searching for a reason, for support, for a sense of understanding why someone like Nik Zoricic would be taken so young, doing what he loved best - skiing.   

How I knew Nik

I come from Chicopee Ski Club, a very small ski hill in Kitchener, Ont. Because of this, I spent a lot of time training in Collingwood, Ont., largely at the Craigleith Ski Club with Nik and his dad, Bebe.

Like Bebe, my coach was a thickly accented and passionate European. They got a long well. While in Collingwood, Nik and Bebe always took great care of my coach and supported us on and off the hill.

Nik and I were both born in 1983, so our career paths continued to cross and grow from that lowly beginning as 12-year-olds.

My story isn't unusual. The Zoricic family is a massive part of the ski community, helping athletes and coaches whenever possible. They are a prime example of why this community is so loyal and so tightly knit.

Balancing the extreme with the mainstream

Like the Zoricic family, I love skiing and ski racing. This sport is a family sport that is fun, vibrant, and alive. While many people hide from winter, the ski community embraces it. I believe that by doing so, we are embracing Canada.  

It's my hope that Nik and Sarah Burke's tragic deaths don't deter people from picking up these sports and engaging in this community. In saying that, I also believe we can never do enough to improve, grow, and further the safety measures taken.  

No one should ever die within a sporting arena. Sadly, Canada has lost two incredible athletes this year. To me, this only re-affirms my belief that safety questions need to be addressed - not only urgently but more broadly.  

Nearly every sporting realm is facing safety concerns: the NFL, NHL, X-Games, ski cross, alpine, etc. This means our sporting community as a whole is now at a crossroads. Safety isn't an isolated problem, it's pervasive.

Sports have gone beyond what the human body is meant to sustain. Far beyond. What is our goal through sport: to entertain? To inspire? To evolve? And can we do all of these things while staying within the abilities and limits the human body has given us?

Once the sporting community truly defines our visions and intents, we can then start to focus on safety. Until we know where we're going, I don't think any sustainable change is going to happen. We can't continue on this trajectory. If we do, we'll only see more casualties.

Every incident must be investigated thoroughly, which is being done right now for Nik.  However, we must also look at our overall positioning and goals within all sporting realms. Not doing so would be a disservice to Nik and Sarah.

Our balance between the extreme and the mainstream has been lost. We must find our way again.

Safety on the hill

Well over a hundred people worked and inspected the course in Grindewald, Switzerland, where Nik's crash occurred. Trained professionals and athletes, and yet no one identified the last jump as a very real danger. How does that happen?

The number of variables in sports like alpine and ski cross are nearly endless. This is an inherent part of these sports that makes them both challenging and exciting. This is also the reason why safely is such a dynamic and difficult balance to achieve.

After an accident, it's so easy to look at it and say how incredibly obvious and dangerous something was. I believe that to be the case with Nik's fall. Yet this wasn't just a freak accident that can be written off. A simple rule of thumb: there should be nothing in the landing zone of a jump. Yet it happens too often in both alpine and ski cross.

In March 2008, Austria's Matthias Lanzinger lost his leg after landing in a gate while racing a super-G. Was nothing learned from this event? I strongly believe any jump should give you at least a moment to land, then react. You should never land in anything, even if you are slightly offline. Sadly, Nik paid the biggest price there is to pay for this mistake.  

Many from the community are angered by Nik's death. I share in that emotions and know that it's a reasonable and justified reaction. However, as my friend and ex-ski racer Jaime Workman put it, "Anger will not force reason."  At this time, we need reason to prevail as the sporting community adapts and changes.  

Goodbye

Dealing with death and grief is extremely hard both intellectually and emotionally. There is simply nothing like it in life. Nothing but death has such finality.  

Nik lived his life doing what he loved, and this community takes solace in that. As Bebe said, "No regrets."

The ski community is strong. We'll endure and grow, not only stronger but, I hope, smarter. 

End of Story Content

Back to accessibility links

Story Social Media

End of Story Social Media

Comments are closed.