WHISTLER Feb 21 Only once Rachel Crook got off
the ski course did she realise that millions of people had
watched her do what she had done hundreds of times before in
relative obscurity -- rescue a fallen skier.
The skier is "a patient who needs our help," but he is also
an Olympic athlete on race day, thrusting Crook and her fellow
mountain medical team members on to the world stage.
"When we got down for debrief, our chief of patrol said
'Wow, you guys did so great ... you were in view of 6,000 people
in the stands and how many millions of people on TV'," said
"It did not occur to me once," said the accountant by
weekday and ski patrol member by weekend from Calgary, Canada.
Crook, like the 60 ski patrol members and doctors on the
Whistler Alpine medical team, has volunteered for the Feb. 12-28
They form a close-knit crew who relish the challenge of
working on the cold, steep slopes. They are also known to have a
good time when the working day is over.
The Alpine skiing events on Whistler mountain have featured
some spectacular crashes, bringing out an instant swarm of
bright blue coats and red backpacks with white crosses to the
With some two dozen of them on the course for a race, Crook
and her colleagues will "assess the patient and probably package
them and get them to the next, higher level of care."
Canadian skier Emily Brydon took a nasty fall in the women's
super-G on Saturday and said the medical team "is so well
organised, they were beside me before I stopped moving, I
In these Games, after the team's initial response, athletes
may be pulled off the piste by helicopter, hoisted up on a long
line that leaves them swinging like a tea bag.
The helicopter, however, does not mean severe injuries are
involved. Rather, it is Canada's way of getting hobbled athletes
off hard-to-reach slopes and letting the race continue.
'A REALLY GOOD DAY'
The busiest day for this team was the women's downhill last
week. Several racers careered off the treacherous course into
netting, toppled and rolled down the steep finish or caught too
much air on the final jump and landed with a thud.
It was a day full of adrenaline, and relief.
"As much as nobody likes anybody to get hurt, it is one of
those things where they want to be able to help and put their
training into practice," said Joan Maguire, who manages all the
medical services for Whistler's venues.
"So for the team, it was a really good day for them because
no one got really seriously hurt."
That has not been the case over at the Whistler Sliding
Centre, where the medical team there had to deal with the worst
tragedy of these Olympics, the death of a Georgian luger in a
horrific training crash hours before the Games opened.
Maguire said that team was at the crash site "within
seconds" and did everything they could. Counselling services
were brought in and many team members have used them.
"It was a very sad way to start the Games, but I am proud of
the way in which they dealt with it," said Maguire.
One of the reasons these medical teams work so well is that
they have a great sense of family, in work and in play.
"That is why I can get these people to come out here for
three weeks," said Maguire.
For Crook, working at the Olympics is "the biggest honour
that there is," but she is not intimidated by the spotlight.
"All your training -- and we do a lot of training and
practice -- really kicks in and you go with it and you are not
even thinking this is an Olympic athlete and the world is
(Editing by Ed Osmond; To query or comment on this story