The ski halfpipe competitions at the Winter Olympics had already yielded some scary-looking crashes before the men’s final Thursday. That competition was marked by two more frightening spills — it was also marked by gold and silver medals for Team USA — but both skiers involved may have avoided serious injuries.
If so, that would represent quite a fortuitous outcome for both Kevin Rolland of France and American Torin Yater-Wallace. They went down hard on similar crashes on their final runs of the day, slamming into the lip of the halfpipe on the way down from high-flying tricks, then tumbling into the center of the course.
The crash suffered by the 28-year-old Rolland was arguably the worse of the two, as The Guardian reported in its live blog of the competition that he was “making a frightening moaning noise in the middle of the pipe” while awaiting medical attention. Remarkably, Rolland eventually got back to his feet and skied his way off the course, to the amazement of observers.
Two competitors later, it was Yater-Wallace’s turn to take an alarming tumble. The 22-year-old Colorado native overcame a litany of injuries just to reach these Games, including a medically induced paralysis state in November 2015 while fighting a life-threatening infection.
Yater-Wallace crashed on all three of his runs Thursday, but the third appeared to be the most violent. However, as with Rolland, he was able to ski off under his own power, and the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Team subsequently declared that he was okay “but will miss the medals.”
Those crashes were just the latest at the halfpipe course. During Tuesday’s freestyle qualifications, Switzerland’s Joel Gisler also came down hard on the lip, sending his skis flying as he fell down toward the center. He was able to walk away, in another near-miraculous recovery.
The men’s snowboard halfpipe final last week saw Japan’s Yuto Totsuka smack into the lip as well. He was placed in a stretcher and skied off the course but was later reported as having “no big injury” apart from pain in his hip.
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