Canadian freestyle skiing champion Sarah Burke fell into a coma after sustaining an injury during a superpipe training run Tuesday at the Park City Mountain Resort in Park City, Utah, according to reports.
Burke, 29, is now in critical condition in at University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City. According to the Huffington Post, a spokeswoman there confirmed that Burke had been admitted and was being evaluated.
What I've heard, relatively directly, is that she landed a trick down in the bottom end of the pipe, and kind of bounced, from her feet to her head, said Peter Judge, CEO of the Canadian freestyle team, to the Toronto Globe and Mail. It wasn't anything that looked like a catastrophic fall, so I'm a bit mystified.
Powder Magazine reports that Burke was training in the halfpipe with fellow Monster Energy team riders. Around 1 p.m., she landed a trick off of the wall on her feet at the bottom of the pipe, but then whiplashed over onto her side, according to a witness. Burke was then taken by helicopter to the hospital after being stabilized at the scene of the accident.
We're a bit shell-shocked right now, Judge said to the Toronto Star. It's tough to read. The signs are dramatic and catastrophic, but it's hard to gauge how dramatic and catastrophic. The same treatment and symptoms can be on a broad scale.
One of the resort's spokesmen, Andy Miller, said that the superpipe Burke injured herself on was the same one where snowboarder Kevin Pearce was critically injured during a training run on Dec. 31, 2009. Pearce suffered traumatic brain injuries but has since recovered and returned last month to riding on snow.
Burke, who ranked 11th in the Association of Freeskiing Professionals overall rankings last year, is a four-time Winter X Games gold medalist skiing superpipe, which was the event she was training for at the time of Tuesday's accident. She also won gold at the 2005 Finland world championships and in 2007 she was ESPN's Best Female Action Sports Athlete.
Burke, who has been lobbying to include skiing halfpipe in the Olympics, will see it come to fruition in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
She's kind of been the face of the sport and technically pushed the sport on the front end, Judge told the Star. She's always been aggressive that way. It's a good thing as a role model for female sport and her sport. It was critical for her to take that leadership role. It's something she was comfortable doing and she did a great job of it.
Burke has been injured before, too. She missed significant time in 2009 after landing awkwardly and broke a vertebra in her lower back. Of course she has healed now and before this recent injury, was scheduled to defend her title later this month at the Winter X Games in Aspen.