Swiss snowboarder Marcel Hitz has been forced to end his career after being diagnosed with bone cancer.
The 27-year-old half-pipe specialist, who finished 15th at the Winter Olympics in February, had reported sharp pains in his knee shortly before leaving for Salt Lake City. But medical tests at the time failed to show any cause for concern.
A more recent examination revealed a hole in the bone under Hitz's knee and it was during a subsequent transplant operation that the cancer was discovered.
"I have come to terms with the diagnosis," said the athlete from canton Lucerne on Monday, "and I am confident that I can beat this illness. Previously this cancer would have been a death sentence but today the chances of recovery are fairly strong. Fortunately, the doctors have found no evidence that the cancer has spread."
Hitz is due to begin a course of chemotherapy at the start of next week. The affected knee joint will then be removed after 12 weeks.
After ten years of snowboarding, including four years on the professional circuit, Hitz says he wants to stay involved with the sport after his treatment.
"I want to stay connected to snowboarding in one way or another," he insisted. "There will still be things for me to offer the sport."
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