Australian flag-bearer Cameron Rahles-Rahbula has pulled out of the Winter Paralympic Games after suffering a small fracture in his leg during a practice-session crash last week.
Rahles-Rahbula, who lost his left leg to cancer, was set to compete in this fourth Paralympics after he reversed a decision to retire last September but was forced to withdraw from his first three races after the crash on the first downhill training session on Wednesday.
The former Camperdown athlete was carried from the snow on a sled and taken to hospital, where scans showed he had chipped the tibia near his right knee. He also suffered bruising to his right ankle, as well as facial injuries.
A decision was made on Saturday that even though Rahles-Rahbula managed to carry the flag at the opening ceremony with the aid of crutches, his injury would not improve enough for him to compete in the technical events, slalom and giant slalom.
“I’ve seen the doctor and unfortunately I’ve been ruled out for the remainder of the Games,” said Rahles-Rahbula in a statement. “It’s just the high risk to the knee. With the damage to the knee already, if I do race there’s the potential to make it much worse.
“Aside from that it’s still quite sore so there’s also the risk of injuring something else if you’re not skiing the right way.
“So that’s the end of my Games from an athlete point of view.”
“Ski racing has its high risks and this is something that happened. The conditions have been quite challenging — being March and quite warm weather meant the conditions outside the course were quite bumpy.
“It was one of those accidents that freakishly occur. And that’s probably the most disappointing part of it — that it wasn’t something you expect to happen. It was a very unusual accident.”
The 30-year-old retired in September after the Thredbo World Cup saying he wanted to spend more time with his wife, Emily, and son Archie. However, team officials encouraged him to come back by allowing him to remain in Australia until last month.
Rahles-Rahbula had previously acknowledged the risks of skiing in a speed event such as downhill on such limited preparation but believed his experience would guide him through.
Emily, speaking before the announcement was made, said Rahles-Rahbula’s decision would come down to more than whether the knee would allow him to compete.
“I think he’s pretty pragmatic and he’s fairly grounded as well,” she said.
“You don’t earn your money through competing in Paralympic sport, you earn your money by going to work and Cameron’s a physiotherapist so he requires full mobility to earn a living and if that’s impacted in any way it can have some fairly devastating effects.”