ROSA KHUTOR, Russia (Reuters) - Felix Neureuther will decide on Tuesday whether he will ski Wednesday’s giant slalom and may forfeit that race for his specialty, the slalom, he said on Sunday, his neck still visibly stiff after a car accident en route to Sochi.
Neureuther hit the crash barrier on an icy road on the way to Munich airport on Friday, suffering whiplash, bruised rips and pulled ligaments in his back, raising doubts over whether he can take part in his third Olympics.
“I will try to ski tomorrow, just to see whether it works. That’s the first test. On Tuesday I will train... and I will decide whether it makes sense or not,” said Neureuther, wearing a big scarf, his neck movement stilted and awkward.
“It makes little sense to race at any cost (on Wednesday) because the slalom on Saturday is the event where ...I have a bigger chance,” the German said in his first news conference since arriving in Russia a day late on Saturday.
Despite having had an injury-plagued season, the 29-year- old would be one of the medal favorites in the giant slalom and a candidate for gold in the slalom.
“If I do start, there will be no excuses. ... If I start, then of course I know I could be faster than the others.”
He is no stranger to success with injury, having won the prestigious Kitzbuehel slalom last month - one of three World Cup victories since the start of the year - with his thumb in a splint. He has also had back problems recently but said that was now no longer an issue.
“The construction site has moved up my back and is now in the upper spine,” he said, moving as little as necessary. “The lower back is fine now.”
Neureuther said he had been treated four times on Sunday and had flown to Sochi because he knew the team had the best medical staff there. German men’s coach Karlheinz Waibel said it was up to Neureuther to decide whether he would race.
A jocular Neureuther said his parents, double Olympic champion Rosi Mittermaier and six-time slalom World Cup winner Christian Neureuther, had not given him tips on his skiing.
“They have had other worries about me in recent days,” he said.
His team mates were also relieved Neureuther made it to Sochi, hoping the media attention would now quieten down.
“You expect everything from Felix but this is the kind of news you don’t like hearing and ... where you are happy when you find out it wasn’t quite as bad,” Stefan Luitz said as Neureuther cut in: “I even brought you your skiing boots, you dummy.”
After the accident Neureuther drove on to Munich airport, where he met his team mates who departed as planned, but then saw his doctor before deciding to take the plane on Saturday.
Neureuther was in the car with his biathlete girlfriend Miriam Goessner, who has been the talk of her sport after appearing naked in the German edition of Playboy on Thursday. She is not taking part in Sochi due to injury.
“I’m not covering up a massive love bite,” Neureuther said of his scarf. “I’m not wearing a toby collar anymore. The neck region just needs to be kept warm, so the muscles can relax.”
Because he drove on and left the scene without waiting for police, prosecutors opened an investigation into the accident, but police have indicated that was routine procedure. Goessner had called the police from the car.
Editing by Ed Osmond