As the description implies, extreme sports demand more of participants. They are not without personal risk. Whether it be running, walking, swimming, bike riding, climbing or any combination of them, contestants can compete safely only within their own abilities and experience in the conditions at the time. Add an extreme, totally unexpected change in weather conditions mid-event and the risk can easily become unmanageable and life-threatening. Tragic testament to that is the loss of 21 young lives in an almost unimaginable example of an extreme sport gone awry during an ultramarathon in northwestern Gansu province at the weekend. Hours after setting off in a 100km mountain race dressed only in shorts and tops, with the event’s WeChat account having indicated temperatures ranging from 9 to 19 degrees Celsius, the runners found themselves battling freezing temperatures, hail and winds 2,000 metres above sea level on mountainous tracks. When it became clear runners were in trouble, officials called off the event and began a rescue operation. By then some were suffering from hypothermia and others had passed out from the cold. Sadly, many lives could not be saved following exposure to the elements. They included two of the country’s best distance runners. Liang Jing won China’s ultra Gobi in 2018 and came second in Hong Kong’ s 100 ultra trail race a year later. Huang Guanjun won the marathon in the 2019 National Paralympic Games hearing-impaired section. Our thoughts must go out to all concerned, especially those who have lost loved ones and survivors, who have not only lost friends, but also must live with the tragedy for the rest of their lives. It is too soon to draw conclusions. Officials have begun an investigation . The inquiry must not shrink from asking every question and drawing every lesson from the tragedy. Why was there no warning of the change in temperature, for example? Would it have made any difference if poor communications had not made it difficult to track down some runners with their GPS signals? Extreme events will continue to pose high risks. People will continue to take them. It is important everyone concerned learns from this tragedy so that lives have not been lost entirely in vain.