Zoricic's father: 'He was really happy'


CALGARY, Alberta (AP) -- Nik Zoricic's family says the Canadian skier lived his dream.

The 29-year-old Zoricic died at a World Cup skicross event Saturday in Grindelwald, Switzerland. Zoricic went wide over the final jump and crashed hard into safety nets lining the side of the course.

In a statement, Zoricic's father said there were no regrets because his son loved the sport.

"Nik's dream was to make the national team and he did that," Predrag Bebe Zoricic said Sunday. "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."

Zoricic's father said the family was 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."

The Canadian team said Zoricic was pronounced dead at a hospital in Interlaken, where he had been airlifted from the course by helicopter. The International Ski Federation (FIS) said in a statement that Zoricic died of "severe neurotrauma."

Funeral details have not yet been confirmed.

Skicross debuted at the 2010 Olympics, 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 after Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke died from injuries sustained in a crash during halfpipe training in Park City, Utah. She 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 age 5, where his father became an established Alpine coach at the Craigleith Ski Club, about 95 miles north of Toronto.

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 Games in Vancouver.

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

Organizers canceled the World Cup events for men and women Saturday along with Sunday's finals.