At press time, Squamish freeskier Sarah Burke was still listed in critical condition and in an induced coma following a serious crash while halfpipe training at Park City, Utah.
The accident occurred on Tuesday afternoon, Jan.10. According to reports, the 28-year-old X Games champion landed on her feet but fell over, hitting her head on the hard-packed snow. Ski patrol performed first aid and she was quickly fitted with a respirator and breathing tube before she was airlifted to Salt Lake City Hospital for emergency treatment.
The hospital would not comment on her status or the extent of other possible injuries from the crash, but Canadian Freestyle Ski Team doctor Robert Foxford said Wednesday (Jan.11) during a press conference that induced comas and other steps like cooling Burke's body are standard in serious head injuries until brain swelling is resolved.
Husband Rory Bushfield thanked everyone for their concern and well wishes. "Sarah is a very strong young woman and she will most certainly fight to recover," he said.
There was a massive outpouring of support for Burke on Twitter and Facebook, and the story attracted international media attention — hardly surprising given her credentials in the skiing world.
Burke is arguably the best-known female freeskier in the world with four X Games titles to her credit, as well as wins in most of the other major halfpipe events. She has pushed the progression of the sport further than any other female athlete, and was the first female to land 720, 900 and 1080 spins in halfpipe competition, as well as various inverted and corked tricks. When the International Olympic Committee confirmed that ski halfpipe would be in the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Burke was instantly the favourite to win the gold.
"This is an extremely unfortunate situation and we are awaiting further word on Sarah's condition," said Canadian Freestyle Ski Association CEO Peter Judge on Wednesday. "Sarah is the top female halfpipe athlete in the world. She was instrumental in launching the sport and has continued to be a leader moving towards the sport's Olympic debut in 2014. She is an incredibly resilient and strong young woman and we are hoping she will draw on that strength at this time. Our thoughts are with her and her family at this time."
She hails from Midland, Ontario and lived for stints in Whistler and California before settling down in Squamish with her husband. She also coaches at Momentum Ski Camps in Whistler during the summer.
Burke only competed in a handful of events in the 2010-2011 season after getting surgery on her shoulder in July 2010. She won the first two World Cup events of the season and made an appearance at X Games.
As news spread of Burke's condition expressions of concern came in from across the freeski world.
"Hoping @sara_j_burke is ok. Scary afternoon at Park City," wrote Anna Borgman.
Mike Douglas wrote, "I keep reminding myself that @sarah_j_burke is one of the toughest humans I've ever met. She'll be back!"
Her coach, Trennon Paynter, wrote, "Even while resting, her inner strength is clearly visible. Overcoming challenges is what she has always done best."
The CFSA does conduct neurological baseline testing of its athletes every two years to assist doctors in determining when a patient has fully recovered and can be cleared to return. Dr. Foxford said this type of injury is rare in the sport of freestyle skiing.
"This is the first (serious head injury) to one of our athletes that I've seen, and I've been with the team since '96."
Go to www.piquenewsmagazine.com for updates.