Winter Olympics: Norwegian slopestyler crashes on 'danger' course

SOCHI (AFP) - Norwegian slopestyle snowboarder Torstein Horgmo, one of the Olympic gold medal favourites, was taken to hospital after crashing in training on Monday on a course widely condemned as too dangerous.

The 26-year-old crashed on the rail feature of the slopestyle course at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, Norway's team manager Thomas Harstad confirmed.

"He landed on his face and his right shoulder," he said.

Horgmo's accident follows a stream of criticism from competitors over the safety standards of the course.

"I saw that he fell over the rail and trashed pretty hard. He tried a really hard trick (switch hardway backside 270) - probably the hardest trick you'll see all day. He was transferring from one jump to another rail," said Norwegian team-mate Staale Sandbech.

Sandbech said he could not give an opinion on Horgmo's condition. "I have no idea. You never know when you crash. A crash can look bad and you're fine or the opposite but he's a tough Viking," he said. "Hopefully he can bounce back."

After the accident, Horgmo was placed in tarpaulin and carried down the course by several medical staff to the medical tent.

He was seen flexing his hands as he was taken in for an examination.

Harstad said Horgmo was conscious but in pain and the extent of his injuries were not yet clear.

Horgmo is ranked third on the World Snowboard Tour for this season. Ireland snowboarder Seamus O'Connor, who was out training at the same time as Horgmo, said he anticipated there would be injuries.

"The course needs some work. They overbuilt the jumps because they were anticipating that the snow would melt," said O'Connor.

"At the moment the riders are not happy. The rails up top are too close.

"The riders need to speak up about the conditions. The rails can't be fixed but they can fix the jumps."

On Sunday, Australia's Torah Bright, who is attempting a snowboard treble at Sochi, said she was concerned that the leading experts in course construction were not being employed to oversee the work.

"I do know that concerning pipe and slopestyle, 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."

Slopestyle, making its debut at Sochi, is a spectacular high-speed snowboard discipline.

Competitors perform on a slope featuring various forms of obstacles - rails, quarter-pipes, and jumps.

Horgmo is credited with landing the first "frontside triple cork" on such a course.

The qualifying runs in men's slopestyle are set for Thursday and finals are on Saturday.

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