The talk before the NHL All Star Game was focused on the absence of Sidney Crosby, who sustained a head injury in the Winter Classic and has been on the sidelines since Jan. 2. But Crosby is not the only Olympic hero who is out with an injury, with members of Canadian alpine, snowboarding, ski cross and freestyle teams currently suffering from a wide range of ailments. It's starting to look quite serious out there.
The Canadian Alpine Ski Team has been particularly hard-hit. The most recent loss was Whistler's Manuel Osborne-Paradis, who was airlifted from the downhill course at Chamonix, France on Saturday after catching an edge at 120 km/h. He has since been diagnosed with a broken left leg and torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), as well as other bumps and bruises. He will not return this season and may miss part of next season.
"I knew I was having a great run," said Osborne-Paradis after the crash. "I was on the line that I wanted to be on. I was accelerating. Sometimes you catch an edge. It's kind of the name of the game... There's no point in getting down."
Osborne-Paradis joined a long list of Canadian alpine stars that are injured.
The list includes reigning downhill world champion John Kucera (left leg fracture), Kelly VanderBeek (left knee), Francois Bourque (left knee), Robbie Dixon (concussion), Louis Pierre-Helie (concussion), Jan Hudec (broken right hand), Larissa Yurkiw (left knee), Jean-Philippe Roy (right knee), and Kelly McBroom (fractured left tibia). Erik Guay is currently the only senior member of the men's speed team still in competition, although he missed two events this season with a back injury. Whistler's Victoria Whitney, who was with the national development team last season, was injured while summer training at Mt. Hood.
While Canadian alpine skiers have been particularly hard hit, the rash of injuries extends to other teams as well. This past weekend in France, the Austrian team lost Mario Scheiber and Georg Streitberger. The week before they lost Hans Gregger to a head injury that required emergency brain surgery.
The International Skiing Federation (FIS) has acknowledged the injury issue and has been investigating since a rash of injuries in early 2010. At the time, they suggested that athletes were partly responsible by pushing their own limits to prepare for last year's Olympic Games, but they promised to look at everything from changes to equipment to the preparation of courses - such as grooming and course setting techniques and the practice of using fertilizers and injecting water into courses to try to improve the race surface.
In response to the rash of injuries to Canada's top athletes, and concerned over the long-term impacts to the sport if parents start taking their kids out of racing programs, Alpine Canada announced plans on Monday to host a Ski Racing Safety Summit in April.