Winter Games Grow Faster, More Perilous

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Switzerland's Dominique Gisin crashes during the Women's downhill, at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in Feb. 17, 2010. Winter sports have become increasingly dangerous as speeds have increased in skiing, bobsled, luge, and other events.
AP Photo/Luca Bruno

It's the sixth day of competition at the Vancouver Winter Olympics. The U.S. leads the medal count with 15 - including five golds. But winning isn't everything, especially in a games plagued by dangerous - even deadly - accidents, as CBS News correspondent Jeff Glor reports from Vancouver.

The crashes on the ice-slicked women's downhill course this week weren't just frequent, they were frightening.

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There were six in all, including one requiring an airlift. None of the injuries life-threatening, but they're enough to make organizes lower a dangerous crest near the finish line.

"I broke my femur on the inside and my tibia on the outside," said Resi Steigler.

Steigler is a 24-year-old U.S. Women's Ski Team member, currently on crutches after an injury four months ago that dashed her Olympic dreams.

She says injuries have given her second thoughts about the risky business that she's in.

"I was just like, 'Oh my gosh, if I can just walk after this, I will be the happiest girl in the world,'" she said.

A recent study showed that while the injury rate at the summer Olympics is 1 in 10 athletes, the rate for Olympic-caliber skiers is 4 in 10. And a third of those injuries are season-ending.

Olympic sports are getting more dangerous said Olympic historian Dr. Bruce Mallon, "Because we keep pushing the envelope and trying for higher and higher speeds."

Many athletes regard downhill skiing as the most dangerous event, but the death last Friday of 21-year-old Nodar Kumaritashvili was in luge, and last night on the same track there were at least seven crashes in bobsled.

There's no easy way to make these sports safer - "Not without cutting the speeds way down," Mallon said.

The luge course was adjusted to a lower start point. But changing the courses may be easier than changing the athletes, many of whom take their cues from daredevil champions like Lindsey Vonn.

"She pushes the limit and she's winning everything and that's just a great example of what you have to do," Stiegler said of Vonn. There's no playing it safe in skiing.

Still, even before these 2010 games are over, Resi Stiegler says she considers herself "in training" for 2014.