SOCHI: Russian freestyle skier Maria Komissarova, who fractured her spine Saturday in training for the Olympic ski cross, is in a stable but grave condition following a six-and-a-half hour operation, her federation said.
Komissarova, 23, was immediately evacuated from the site of the accident at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, where she had training for the high-speed and risky event, and taken to hospital in the nearby resort of Krasnaya Polyana.
The operation was described as a success and she had a metal implant inserted into her spine. But the federation declined to give any prognosis for her future condition.
"The doctors took the decision to operate. The preliminary diagnosis was a fracture of the 12th thoracic vertebrae, with a dislocation. The diagnosis was confirmed during the operation," the freestyle federation said in a statement.
"The operation lasted six and a half hours. The doctors did everything they could. The destroyed part of the vertebrae was restored and a metallic implant put in."
"Her condition is stable-serious, she is conscious," it added It added that no further prognosis could be given before 3-4 more days.
"But it seems that in two weeks she will need a second operation on her vertebrae," it added. Komissarova was not expected to be a frontline medal contender after sustaining an knee injury ahead of the games but was seen as an up-and-coming prospect.
The Saint Petersburg-based skier had also increased her visibility by posing for a series of racy pictures prior to the Olympics.
The head of the Russian freestyle team, Elena Vorona, said that the section of track she had fallen on was not the hardest part of the course.
Thoughts with athlete and family:
"It seems she was preparing for the more difficult part, and relaxed a little and was injured," she told the website of Sport Express.
The International Olympic Committee said in a statement: "We understand that the athlete has successfully undergone surgery. Obviously our thoughts are with the athlete and her family."
The freestyle federation said the gravity of her injuries meant that she could not be moved to another hospital for the moment and would need a period of recovery.
After that she would be transferred to an institution with the experience of dealing with such injuries either in Moscow, elsewhere in Russia or abroad, it said.
Crashes have been a common feature of the snowboard and freestyle skiing events at these Games.
Norwegian snowboarder Torstein Horgmo broke his collar bone in a crash during men's snowboard slopestyle training before the Games began.
Canadian slopestyle skier Yuki Tsubota fractured her jaw in competition when she landed short on a jump and hit the rim of the slope, bringing her knee thumping up into her jaw.
In moguls, American skier Heidi Klose broke a bone in her thigh and tore her cruciate knee ligament after a crash in training.
Others such as teenage American skier Maggie Voisin and Austrian snowboarder Adrian Krainer were forced out of the Olympics after suffering injuries in crashes on the slopestyle course, while Japan's Miki Ito pulled out of the moguls after a training crash.
In ski jumping, Russia's Mikhail Maksimochkin was taken to hospital after breaking his ribs in a fall in that event.
It is not just competitors finding themselves in harm's way at these Games. A worker at the bobsleigh track was hit by a forerunner sled that is used to clear and test the course before the competition begins.
Reports suggested he had broken both legs. Komissarova's crash on the ski-cross course, also used for snowboard cross, is perhaps not so surprising given the daredevil mentality of some athletes.
"I'm looking for that rush, that adrenaline; that's the reason I do it, that's what brought me to this sport," said American snowboarder Nick Baumgartner.