Polish athlete to leave hospital after Winter Olympics track accident

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Mateusz Sochowicz, who was injured in luge track crash in Beijing, finished 27th at the last Winter Olympics (AFP/MARK RALSTON)
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A Polish athlete seriously injured in a luge track crash that raised questions around the safety of Beijing Winter Olympics venues is expected to leave hospital on Friday, games organizers said.

Mateusz Sochowicz received knee surgery after he struck a barrier on the Yanqing track on Monday, fracturing one of his legs and suffering a deep cut on the other.

The 25-year-old hit the barrier at the point where the longer men's track joins the start of the women's track during a training session to allow competitors to familiarise themselves with the track.

Sochowicz "received very good medical care after his injury and is in very good condition, and is expected to leave hospital today," Beijing Olympics official Yao Hui said at a press conference on Friday.

The officials brushed off reports that it had taken Sochowicz 30 minutes to receive emergency care, telling journalists the luger was attended to within three minutes.

Sochowicz, who finished 27th at the last Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, told Polish website Onet that he jumped off his luge after he suddenly saw the barrier "in the middle of the track" during the test event on Monday.

He complained that staff at the track "seemed really incompetent" and said the accident could have "ended tragically".

"After the impact I looked at my leg and I could see the bone. I was in shock," he told Onet.

The organisers on Tuesday said they had "carried out a thorough check of the track and adapted the arrangement of the training", in an online statement that included a photograph of smiling Sochowicz in a hospital bed surrounded by medical staff in hazmat suits.

"No one wants to see such incidents (such) as athletes being injured," the organisers said in a separate email to AFP Thursday, adding that "the Polish luge team’s doctors have provided proper treatment and care to the athlete".

Sochowicz's accident evoked uncomfortable memories of the death of Nodar Kumaritashvili, a Georgian luger who was killed during a training run for the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010.

The Beijing Winter Olympics begin on February 4, 2022.

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