Olympics-International rescue on standby at the Beijing Games
By Mari Saito and Emily G Roe
ZHANGJIAKOU, China (Reuters) - Veteran skier Richard Wyne spends almost every day out on the snow at the Beijing Games but he is not here as an athlete or a coach. Instead, Wyne leads a small group of expert rescuers who are on the frontlines keeping Olympians safe on the slopes.
Wyne is part of a team of nine international rescuers who meet every morning for a briefing before dispersing to venues around Genting Snow Park in Zhangjiakou.
His staff are on the snow throughout the Olympic events, monitoring potentially dangerous sections on a course like jumps in the moguls events, radioing local patrollers and doctors on skis as soon as an athlete goes down.
"Everybody really wants a great Games and competition is so important, safety is paramount, but there is a huge amount of risk," said Wyne, who spent 25 years rescuing skiers after avalanches with his specially trained dogs in Whistler, Canada.
With athletes racing, jumping and performing tricks mid-air on icy snow, crashes and injuries are commonplace.
Japanese snowboarder Rina Yoshika fell https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/snowboarding-japans-injured-boarder-yoshika-says-she-underwent-surgery-2022-02-07 during a practice session earlier this month, while one of Wyne's staff attended to Australia snowboarder, Belle Brockhoff, who crashed https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/snowboarding-australian-brockhoff-crashes-taken-off-course-stretcher-2022-02-12 during the snowboard cross mixed team final last week.
"It's very difficult to be able to help somebody and to treat them adequately if you're in the steep parts of these courses, (and) it can be really, really challenging terrain," Wyne said.
He added that his team's decades of experience working as ski patrollers in Canada made them especially adept at working in such challenging environments.
One of Wyne's staff, Kristen Slivorski, 36, spends her days commuting to various venues in Zhangjiakou on the bus, always carrying her skis with her.
Wearing a bright red jacket and a vest with a whistle attached, Slivorski is the first to respond when an athlete falls or crashes during a competition.
The advanced care paramedic's kit includes hot packs and a heat blanket so she can keep athletes warm before they can be transported off the course.
Despite the constant state of vigilance required for the job, Slivorski, a ski patroller and former firefighter, still finds time to soak up the experience.
"Most of the time it is very exciting ... We ski on a daily basis at home for work and just watching them is pretty mind-blowing," she said.
With the winter sports industry rapidly growing https://www.reuters.com/article/us-olympics-2022-china-skiing-idUSKBN2IL273 in China, Wyne said it was crucial to train more rescuers and teach them best practice for keeping athletes safe during competitions.
Ahead of the Olympics, Wyne's consulting company, Polar Solutions Inc, took a large group of Chinese patrollers to New Zealand to run training sessions.
Wyne also spent time in Yanqing, where alpine events are taking place, training more patrollers until the COVID-19 pandemic hit two years ago.
"I just want to leave a legacy so that in this rapid growth (of the ski industry in China) we can leave the best care, best safety practices after we leave," he said.
(Additional reporting by Yiming Woo; Editing by Ken Ferris)
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