Sochi Winter Olympics: Thrills and spills on day three
Sochi Winter Olympics: Thrills and spills on day three Photo: LEON NEAL
A competitor in the women's snowboarding slopestyle final at the Winter Olympics wiped out and slammed her head into the ground so violently that her helmet shattered and she appeared to lose consciousness on a course that has been condemned as being too dangerous.
But Sarka Pancochova, from the Czech Republic, was helped to her feet by medical personnel and managed to snowboard groggily to the bottom of the run at the Sochi Games on Sunday, local time.
There, the 23-year-old showed fellow competitors her helmet, which they discovered had a huge crack and chunk missing from the back.
The slopestyle course, which features a rail section and three jumps that progressively get larger, has attracted heavy criticism from some Olympians, including from reigning snowboard halfpipe champion Shaun White.
White, one of the biggest names at the Games, pulled out of the slopestyle event last week saying the course was "intimidating".
"With the practice runs I have taken, even after course modifications and watching fellow athletes get hurt, the potential risk of injury is a bit too much for me to gamble my other Olympics goals on," the American said.
Canada's Sebastien Toutant said the course was like "jumping out of a building", while Norwegian snowboarder Torstein Horgmo, who had been a gold medal favourite, broke his collarbone on a training run and was forced to pull out of the Games.
Pancochova had already scored 86.25 on her first run on Sunday, and was attempting her second and final run in the women's final when disaster struck.
Footage showed her body going limp as she tumbled to the bottom of the slope, an indication that she had been knocked out.
As she came out of a big jump she failed to fully rotate and caught the edge of her snowboard as she landed.
She was flung heavily backwards, smashing her head into the hard-packed snow.
After several seconds Pancochova started moving, before medical officials reached her and helped her to her feet. She then snowboarded down the remainder of the course.
Pancochova's score from her first run was good enough to earn her fifth place in the final.
Slopestyle is one of two new snowboard events at the Sochi Games, and the course was modified after criticism from competitors.
Last week, Australia's defending Olympic halfpipe champion Torah Bright expressed concerns over claims that leading experts in course construction were not being employed to oversee the work.
"... The business's best aren't here building the course," she said.
"When jumps aren't built properly, if they don't match up, yeah it can be a safety issue. But as long as the jumps are built fine, we're all very experienced in our chosen disciplines, we'll be able to manage it. It really shouldn't be a problem."
Bright finished seventh after failing to land a clean run with her more complicated routine.
American Jamie Anderson won the gold medal after scoring 95.25 in her final run.
Enni Rukajarvi won a surprise silver for Finland with the only other run to break through the 90-point barrier (92.50), and Jenny Jones took the bronze with 87.25 to become Britain's first Olympic medallist in a snow event.