Saskatoon skeleton racer Evan Neufeldt says Air Canada has hurt his chances of competing at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, after his $15,000, customized sled went missing for three days of the training week before a qualifying race.
Neufeldt said his sled disappeared as he travelled from Saskatoon to St. Moritz, Switzerland on Dec. 29, where he is scheduled to compete Jan. 4-5 in the International Cup.
The 30-year-old found out on Monday afternoon the airline had located his sled in Toronto. But he said the loss of training time has put him at a “major disadvantage.”
“These races decide [if I go to] the Olympics or not,” said Neufeldt, who is ranked third in Canada and has been on the national team since 2013.
Neufeldt claims the airline also misplaced luggage belonging to two of his Canadian teammates, including another sled that has since been returned.
Will borrow equipment to practice
Neufeldt has now been told his sled will be on a flight from Toronto to Zurich, Germany, Tuesday morning. It will then be transported to an airport closer to St. Moritz.
Neufeldt hopes the equipment will arrive in time for him to use in the final two practice runs before the qualifying races.
Until then, he will use borrowed equipment from other racers to take part in the first two practice runs.
Neufeldt said he was amazed by the support of competitors from France, Austria, Sweden and Ghana, who have offered the use of their sleds.
‘Game of precision’
But he said skeleton racing is a precision sport and using borrowed equipment, even for the practice runs, puts him at a disadvantage.
He said he keeps books full of notes on every minute he uses the missing sled, adding that finding a borrowed sled he can use will be like trying on shoes to see if they fit.
“Whether I have the same sled as another competitor, none of them are set up the same to respond to my actions, to my steering, and I’ve spent two years fine-tuning everything about this sled to my body,” Neufeldt said.
“This is a game of precision at 130 to 140 kilometres per hour.”
Make or break
Neufeldt said Canada is currently the third-ranked nation behind Germany and Russia. Neufeldt is part of the four-person team, but he’s competing for…