PARIS — French downhill skier David Poisson, a former medallist at the world championships, died on Monday following a training crash in Canada. He was 35.
The French Ski Federation said Poisson, who won the downhill bronze medal at the 2013 worlds, was training in the Canadian resort of Nakiska for World Cup races in North America. The federation did not elaborate.
An official with emergency medical services from nearby Calgary said a call came in mid-morning Monday.
“When we arrived we assessed an individual and determined him deceased on scene,” said Calgary EMS spokesman Adam Loria.
“There was no chance for a hospital. We initially called out STARS (air ambulance) but once we made the determination we did stand the helicopter down.”
French sports minister Laura Flessel expressed her “sadness” and said she will look carefully into the circumstances of the crash.
Poisson, a bulky racer with a broad smile nicknamed “Caillou” (“small stone”), was a popular figure on the World Cup circuit.
He secured his only World Cup podium in 2015 when he came third in the Santa Caterina downhill in Italy, and was fourth in the prestigious Kitzbuehel downhill in 2013. He also competed in the last Winter Olympics, and hoped to qualify for the Pyeongchang Games.
The International Ski Federation expressed its condolences to Poisson’s family and friends in a statement, praising “a respected and accomplished athlete on the World Cup tour ever since his debut in 2004.”
Members of Canada’s ski community also expressed their sorrow.
“Sending love and support to Poisson’s family, team and the entire ski racing community … David’s tragic accident is felt at the deepest level,” Canadian Kerrin Lee-Gardner, a former World Cup alpine ski racer and Olympic gold medallist, said on Twitter.
Kelly VanderBeek, another former member of Canada’s Olympic alpine ski team, said she was “in shock” at news of Poisson’s death.
“My heart goes out to the entire community, but especially his family, friends, and all those who loved him,” VanderBeek said Monday in a tweet.
American ski racer Steven Nyman tweeted: “My heart goes out to David Poisson’s family, friends and teammates. He was a good man, a beast and a friend. I will miss him. The whole World Cup Tour will miss him.”
Poisson’s death came 16 years after super-G world champion Regine Cavagnoud, a prominent French skier, died in Austria from brain injuries following a collision in training.
“There is no word for that,” former French downhiller Luc Alphand told L’Equipe newspaper. “Eliminating risk entirely in downhill is impossible.”
An official with Resorts of the Canadian Rockies, which operates Nakiska, said it is open only for private race training at this time of year for the high level athletes preparing for the World Cup season.
Matt Mosteller said a number of teams, including France, were using the facility.
“They take care of their own training, they set their own courses, they do everything themselves. They’re high level athletes preparing for what they do best,” Mosteller said.
“It’s just horrible that this has happened and really our hearts are torn apart by it and our thoughts and prayers are with his family in France.”
— with files from The Canadian Press reporter Bill Graveland