The Canadian ski cross team's season ended with a candlelight vigil and a tearful dedication last week, following the passing of teammate Nik "Zoro" Zoricic at a World Cup race at Grindelwald, Switzerland on March 10.
Zoricic, 29, had come over the final jump into the finish area on Saturday when he lost control and crashed into the poles and safety netting to the side of the finish gate, sustaining a head injury. He was flown by helicopter to a hospital in Interlaken where he was pronounced dead.
Races on Saturday and Sunday, the last of the season, were cancelled. The rest of the national team was taken back up the mountain by their coaches that night to hold a candlelight vigil for their fallen teammate.
Zoricic's family released this statement to the media on Monday:
"Nik's dream was to make the national team and he did that," said his father Predrag Bebe Zoricic, a well-known ski coach based in Ontario. "His other dream was to make the Olympics. Like every athlete he had his ups and downs but he was on his way up when this happened. He was really enjoying this year. He was really happy.
"The ski community is very tight and I have received many phone calls and messages. We are very grateful for the support we have received and would like to say thank you for that. I didn't know we had so many friends.
"Nik was my inspiration. He gave me the energy to be a ski coach and support other athletes."
Zoricic is survived by both parents, Predrag and Silvia, and sister Katrina, 25. The details for the funeral have not been announced, but it's expected that services will take place in Ontario. A memorial has already been planned at the Craigleith Ski Club where Predrag coaches and Nik grew up skiing.
Alpine Canada president and CEO Max Gartner suggested that it was likely a freak accident given the amount of safety gear and procedures put in place by the International Ski Federation (FIS).
He expects FIS to conduct a full investigation into the incident but until he knows more, he said the team's focus was on Zoricic's family, athletes and coaches with the team and grieving the fallen skier.
"We look at our athletes as members of our family. It's hard," said Gartner during a Saturday press conference, his voice breaking with emotion.
Gartner said he has known Zoricic since he was boy.
"I had the fortune to have known Nik quite well from his Alpine days. His family is very involved in skiing, his dad is a famous ski coach at Craigleith that has worked with a lot of great skiers," said Gartner. "Nik was a model athlete. He was an extremely dedicated young man who went about his business and found a home in ski cross, and has had some podium results. I can only say that it was a pleasure to work with him and know him."