Updated 12:25 p.m. MST Jan. 11, 2012
Originally published 5:38 a.m. MST Jan. 11, 2012
Salt Lake City, UT – Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke is in a coma in a Salt Lake City hospital following a crash while training in Park City, Utah, on Tuesday.
Burke, of Squamish, British Columbia, was practicing in Park City Mountain Resort’s Eagle Superpipe early Tuesday afternoon when she landed on her feet at the bottom of the pipe and fell onto her head. She was found unconscious and stabilized by Park City’s ski patrol before being airlifted to University Hospital in Salt Lake City, where she is listed in critical condition in the hospital’s Neuro Critical Care Unit.
“Sarah sustained serious injuries and remains intubated and sedated in critical condition,” said Safdar Ansari, M.D., a neurointensivist with University of Utah Health Care.
Born into a family of skiers in Midland, Ontario, the 29-year-old Burke is a four-time gold medalist at Winter X Games, where she broke a vertebra in her back in 2009 while competing in Aspen. She also won the 2001 U.S. Freeskiing Open in halfpipe and second place in slopestyle. She won the first ever world championship halfpipe event. She was awarded an ESPY in 2007 for Best Female Action Sports Athlete. She also has five World Cup victories on her resumé, including two earned last March at La Plagne, France. She won the 2005 world championships at Ruka, Finland, and finished fourth at the 2011 worlds at Park City.
Burke’s lobbying efforts were instrumental in the International Olympic Committee’s decision to include halfpipe skiing as a medal event in the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, where she hoped to compete for a medal.
“This is an extremely unfortunate situation and we are awaiting further word on Sarah’s condition,” said Canadian Freestyle CEO Peter Judge. “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.”
Burke is married to fellow freeskier Rory Bushfield, who flew to Salt Lake City with Burke’s mother late Tuesday night.
“Sarah is a very strong young woman and she will most certainly fight to recover,” said Bushfield.
The incident occurred in the same superpipe in which pro snowboarder Kevin Pearce sustained a training fall in 2009 that resulted in a traumatic brain injury.