A lynx gets a taste of luge and Olympic downhill | SummitDaily.com

A lynx gets a taste of luge and Olympic downhill

A Lynx walks past ski gates near the finish area during first training for the Men's Downhill at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in Whistler, British Columbia, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2010. (AP Photo/Gero Breloer)

WHISTLER, British Columbia – With no hopes of a medal, a lynx is on the loose and enjoying a couple of shining Olympic moments

Skiers and lugers heard the call of the wild from the critter, who is apparently oblivious to the safety concerns of Olympic venue officials.

An orange-and-black spotted lynx sauntered across the downhill course during the men’s opening training session Wednesday. Two days earlier, one of his – her? – brethren was spotted outside the perimeter of the luge track during afternoon training.

The lynx is a large cat – weighing up to 30 pounds and reaching 26 inches in height – that roams forests of the northern United States and Canada. And take it from a Canadian – downhiller Manuel Osborne-Paradis – the lynx is no cuddly outdoor friend when you’re speeding down an icy slope at 70 mph.

“Get out of the way,” he said. “Oh, wow. You do not want to get close to that.”

The downhill session was already on hold because of fog, and no skiers linked with lynx. Still, officials issued a warning over the race radio in case someone was on the course. The lynx had its own agenda and hopped over the barriers lining the perimeter to retreat to the forest.

Tony Thorburn, a 65-year-old Olympic volunteer, has lived near Whistler for 16 years and says such lynx sightings are unusual but becoming more frequent.

“I’ve known people who worked in the bush all their lives and never seen one,” he said. “But in the last few years they’ve shown up here more often.”

Volunteers add that you can also spot black and brown bear in Whistler. Thorburn said coyotes also are common, hunting in packs and targeting pets.

“A lot of people can’t leave their cats out,” he said. “They make a nice little meal for a coyote.”

At the Whistler Sliding Centre, luge forerunners were on the track preparing the ice for the Olympians at the time of the sighting. A local conservation officer was summoned, and it was decided there was no reason to stop the action on the course.

John Gibson, venue press manager at The Whistler Sliding Centre, offered this reassurance: The creature was not a cougar.

“That was all planned. It’s to show people Canadian nature,” cracked Mike Kertesz, the International Ski Federation official in charge of the finish area.

Ski racing is no stranger to wildlife. A few years ago at a World Cup downhill in Val Gardena, Italy, a deer loped onto the course and ran next to Italian star Kristian Ghedina for the final part of his run. Ghedina made the deer his personal logo for the rest of his career.

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