Throughout the history of the Winter Olympics, many athletes suffer injuries, including 16-year-old Yuto Totsuka who had a bad landing during the men’s halfpipe snowboarding just the other day. Though he was thankfully not seriously harmed, countless more have suffered major injuries, and some competitors have even tragically died. Below is a list of deaths that occurred during the Winter Olympics, and while they were training.
The Winter Olympics are no joking matter for athletes. Though figure skaters look flawless on the ice, and lugers speed down the track with precision, there is a great deal of danger to these sports.
Even watching at home, it is painful to see a snowboarder miss a landing, or a skier fall while making turns. Many of the Winter Olympics sports have seen the heartbreaking losses of many athletes. What many hope will be an opportunity to compete for their country and win a medal sadly ends with a small mistake costing them their lives.
Unfortunately, there have been a number of Olympic deaths both during the Games and while training. Below is a list of people who lost their lives either at the Winter Olympics or while practicing.
Athletes Who Died While Competing in the Winter Olympics
The Georgian one-man luger died at the age of 21 on February 12, 2010. Right before the opening ceremonies, he lost control of his sled on a training run and crashed headfirst into a steel pole beside the track at a reported speed of 90 mph. He was the fourth athlete to die while preparing for the Winter Olympics.
Kumaritashvili belonged to a family of lugers. It was his grandfather who brought the sport to the Soviet republic of Georgia. Both his father and uncle competed in the sport when they were young.
Kumaritashvili’s death anniversary was acknowledged on the luge track at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games.
Leslie Ross Milne, an alpine ski racer, was from Australia. He died on January 25, 1964, after flying off the course and crashing into a tree while training for the 1964 Innsbruck Games in Austria.
An investigation was held to determine his cause of death. International Olympic Committee member Hugh Weir said, “Because Ross Milne was only seventeen years of age, the question was raised at the [Innsbruck] IOC meeting as to whether inexperienced people were being sent to compete in … snow sports which contain an element of danger.”
It was then reported that Milne swerved to avoid a crowd of contestants, who were due to overcrowding at the top part of the downhill course. His manager commented that, had the course been better managed, Milne would not have been forced to attempt to stop at an uprepared part of the hill.
The Polish-born British luger died the same year as Milne. He was not just an athlete, but a former pilot in the Royal Air Force.
Skrzypecki died during a training run for the first luge competition at the 1964 Winter Olympics. The opening ceremonies were on January 29, 1964, six days after Skrzypecki died.
Swiss speed skier Nicolas Bochatay died at the age of 27 at the 1992 Winter Olympics. He reportedly crashed into a snow grooming vehicle on the morning of the speed skiing finals.
He died of internal injuries on February 22, 1992. Bochatay was warming up with his teammate before the finals. He died one day before the closing ceremonies took place.
Sarah Burke is the person who introduced halfpipe skiing to the Olympics. In 2005, she won the world championship in the halfpipe. She died in January 2012 after crashing against the bottom of a pipe during training.
Her accident was reportedly did not appear to be very severe, but she quickly went into cardiac arrest, lowering her chance of survival. She was airlifted to the hospital and placed in a medically induced coma. On January 19, 2012, Burke succumbed to her injuries.