March 11, 2012

The family of Canadian skier Nik Zoricic, who died at a World Cup skicross event, said racing was his life.

Zoricic died Saturday from fatal injuries he suffered at an event in Switzerland when he went wide over the final jump and crashed hard into the safety nets lining the side of the course.

In a statement released Sunday, Zoricic's father said that there are no regrets from anyone because his son did what he loved to do.

"Nik's dream was to make the national team and he did that," Predrag Bebe Zoricic said. "His other dream was to make the Olympics. Like every athlete, he had his ups and downs but he was on his way up when this happened.

"He was really enjoying this year. He was really happy."

The elder Zoricic also said the family is grateful for the many phone calls and messages that have come in from friends and supporters.

"He was really just like everyone on the team, like a brother to me," Canadian teammate Chris Del Bosco said on a conference call. "This is my family and we go through the ups and the downs together. Push each other. Make each other laugh.

"He was just an amazing guy ... I was very fortunate to have him in my life."

Zoricic, 29, was treated by doctors at the course in Grindelwald before being airlifted to a hospital at Interlaken. He was pronounced dead as a result of "severe neurotrauma," the International Ski Federation said in a statement.

The family said funeral details have not yet been confirmed.

Skicross debuted at the Olympics in 2010, joining its sister sport of snowboardcross in the latest attempt by the IOC to bring a more exciting, youthful feel to the games. It's a dangerous discipline - known as "NASCAR on skis" - during which four racers jostle down a course filled with banks, rolls and ridges.

Zoricic's death came just two months to the day after Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke died from injuries sustained in a crash during halfpipe training in Park City, Utah. Burke was also 29.

Zoricic was born in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, one year before the city hosted the 1984 Winter Games as part of the former Yugoslavia. He moved to Canada at 5, where his father, Bebe, became an established Alpine coach at the Craigleith Ski Club in Ontario.

Zoricic was an alpine racer before taking up skicross, making his World Cup debut in the sport in January 2009. He earned his first World Cup points a month later but failed to qualify for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Zoricic placed eighth in the 2011 world championships at Deer Valley, Utah.

Grindelwald has been a venue on the skicross World Cup circuit since 2005. The Swiss village beneath the Eiger and Jungfrau mountain peaks was hosting a meet for the fifth straight year.

Organizers canceled the World Cup events for men and women on Saturday, along with the World Cup Finals races on Sunday.

Race organizers will work with the FIS and the Swiss ski federation to analyze the accident and course security.

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