Squad of doctors on the slopes

Members of the emergency medical team at Beijing 2022’s Yanqing competition zone are all skilled skiers. PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY
Members of the emergency medical team at Beijing 2022’s Yanqing competition zone are all skilled skiers. PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY


Published: Fri 11 Feb 2022, 11:18 AM

After years of extensive training and preparation, Beijing 2022’s elite team of ski doctors have been on standby to swoop to the rescue on the slopes of the Games’ Yanqing competition zone.

“The entire team is ready for all possible scenarios here at the National Alpine Skiing Centre of the Beijing Winter Olympics,” said Guo Qi, deputy medical officer of the Alpine Skiing Medical Team, who is also a traumatologist at Beijing Jishuitan Hospital.

Alpine skiing is among the riskiest of winter sports, with competitors reaching speeds of up to 152 km/h as they hurtle down courses full of sharp turns and soaring jumps.

All the ski doctors need to have both top-class medical knowledge and skiing skills that takes years of training, Guo said.

“The Beijing 2022 organising committee has given huge support to the establishment of the Alpine skiing medical team. Since 2018 we have been selecting doctors who can ski from across Beijing. Then we organised trials and asked the standout candidates if they would like to join the team.

“Those who qualified received professional skiing coaching and specific medical training. Our doctors are from different backgrounds, and we need to know how to deal with all medical emergencies on the slopes.”

In addition, doctors received language training to help them communicate b etter with international athletes.

The medical team comprises 36 Chinese doctors and 11 from abroad. Almost all the doctors have skied for more than six years. The team is on call 24 hours a day.

Any injured athlete receives initial treatment on the slopes before being transferred to a nearby medical station or hospital, with helicopters on standby.

“Apart from offering help to injured athletes, we also need to ensure the smoothness of the competitions,” Guo said. “We need to deal with emergencies as quickly as possible to allow the competitions to continue and limit interruptions.”

In such a high-risk sport, severe injuries and even fatalities are possible, so time is very often of the essence when treating skiers.

The ski doctors aim to provide medical treatment within four minutes. That is no easy task, especially when doctors sometimes have to carry equipment weighing up to 15 kilograms.

Working in temperatures as low as minus 20 C on the slopes of Yanqing adds another element of difficulty.

Xinhua contributed to this story.

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