Olympics-International lifesaving pending at the Beijing Games

By Mari Saito and Emily G Roe

ZHANGJIAKOU, China (Reuters) – Veteran skier Richard Wyne spends almost every day on the snow at the Beijing Games, but he is not here as an athlete or coach. Instead, Wyne leads a small group of expert lifeguards who are on the front lines of keeping Olympians safe on the slopes.

Wyne is part of a team of nine international rescuers who meet every morning for a briefing before dispersing to sites around Genting Snow Park in Zhangjiakou.

Its staff are on the snow throughout Olympic events, monitoring potentially dangerous sections of a course such as jumps in mogul events, phoning local patrollers and medics on skis whenever an athlete falls.

“Everyone really wants big Games and the competition is so important, safety is paramount, but there’s a huge amount of risk involved,” said Wyne, who spent 25 years rescuing skiers after avalanches with his specially trained dogs. trained in Whistler, Canada.

With athletes running, jumping and performing tricks in the air on icy snow, accidents and injuries are commonplace.

Japanese snowboarder Rina Yoshika fell https://www.Reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/snowboarding-japans-injured-boarder-yoshika-says-she-underwent-surgery-2022-02-07 during a practice session training earlier this month while one of Wyne’s staff looked after Australian snowboarder Belle Brockhoff, who crashed in the snowboard cross mixed team final last week .

“It’s very difficult to be able to help somebody and treat them right if you’re in the steep parts of these courses, (and) it can be really, really tough terrain,” Wyne said.

He added that his team’s decades of experience as ski patrollers in Canada make them uniquely adept at working in such harsh environments.

FIRST RESPONDERS

One of Wyne’s employees, Kristen Slivorski, 36, spends her days traveling to various places in Zhangjiakou by bus, always taking her skis with her.

Dressed in a bright red jacket and vest with an attached whistle, Slivorski is the first to react when an athlete falls or crashes during a competition.

The advanced care paramedic’s kit includes warm compresses and a heated blanket so she can keep athletes warm before they can be carried off the course.

Despite the constant state of vigilance required by the profession, Slivorski, a ski tracker and former firefighter, still finds time to immerse himself in the experience.

“Most of the time it’s very exciting… We ski home every day for work and just watching them is quite breathtaking,” she said.

With the rapid growth of the winter sports industry https://www.Reuters.com/article/us-olympics-2022-china-skiing-idUSKBN2IL273 in China, Wyne said it was crucial to train more lifeguards and teach them best practices to keep athletes safe during competitions.

Ahead of the Olympics, Wyne’s consulting firm, Polar Solutions Inc, took a large group of Chinese patrollers to New Zealand to conduct training sessions.

Wyne also spent time in Yanqing, where alpine events are held, training more patrollers until the COVID-19 pandemic hit two years ago.

“I just want to leave a legacy so that in this rapid growth (of the ski industry in China), we can leave the best care, the best safety practices after we’re gone,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Yiming Woo; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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