Last month, 21 competitors in a 62-mile ultramarathon in China's Gansu province perished during severe weather that included freezing rain, hail, and frigid strong winds. On Wednesday, in response to that deadly event, the country's sports oversight agency announced it's indefinitely suspending all extreme sports—including ultra-long races, trail running in deserts and mountains, and wingsuit flying—until it can get a handle on how to better implement safety protocols and improve regulations, reports CNN. The agency also noted that local authorities should avoid "any sports competitions unless necessary," and that local governments should complete comprehensive risk assessments before such events, looking more closely at weather and terrain factors, as well as safety management and emergency rescue capabilities, per the Guardian.
This is because the "man-made disaster" of the Gansu race—in which organizers failed to include proper gear on prep lists, didn't seem to be up on weather conditions, and delayed calling off the race even as problems started emerging—wasn't exactly an anomaly. Those involved in high-risk sports in China say many of these events are haphazardly thrown together, leading to injuries and deaths. The sister of Huang Yinbin, a 28-year-old runner whose heart stopped during the Gansu race, tells the New York Times that when she went with family to retrieve his body, Chinese authorities shadowed them to make sure they didn't talk to other families and tried to push settlement money on them to keep them quiet. Huang's family refused, and they and others continue to seek answers. However, "it is unclear whether a full accounting of what happened will ever be published in China," per the Times. (Read more China stories.)