February 16

Injured Russian Olympic skier airlifted to Germany

Maria Komissarova heads to a clinic in Munich that specializes in spine injuries.

By Stephen Wilson
The Associated Press

SOCHI, Russia — Olympic skicross racer Maria Komissarova was airlifted to Germany for further treatment after surgery on her fractured spine, the Russian freestyle ski federation said Sunday.

click image to enlarge

In this photo provided by RIA Novosti Kremlin, Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, speaks to skier Maria Komissarova in a hospital in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia, on Saturday. The 23-year-old Russian ski cross racer fractured her spine during a training session Saturday and underwent a 6 hour surgery.

The Associated Press

The 23-year-old Komissarova crashed during a training run Saturday, fracturing the 12th dorsal vertebrae in her lower-middle back, and underwent emergency surgery lasting 6 1/2 hours.

“Masha Komissarova was rendered all necessary medical care at this stage by Russian doctors,” the federation said in a statement. “By the decision of her relatives, she is being sent for further treatment to a clinic in Munich, Germany, specializing in the treatment of this kind of injury.”

A team of specialists inserted a metal implant in Komissarova’s spine in a successful operation, the federation said, though they declined to discuss the skier’s prognosis.

R-Sport quoted Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko as saying Komissarova would have another operation and rehabilitation in Munich, adding “We are trying to make everything OK.”

Komissarova was listed as being in a “grave but stable” earlier Sunday, on a day when two women’s snowboardcross riders were carried off on stretchers after bad falls.

The IOC said it had no concerns over the course conditions and maintained that there have been no more crashes and injuries than in previous Winter Games.

“Health and safety of the athletes is our No. 1 priority,” International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams said. “At this stage, we don’t see anything abnormal compared with Vancouver in terms of accidents and injuries.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Komissarova in the hospital on Saturday night. Photographs and television footage showed Putin at her bedside, wearing a white hospital coat and holding her right arm. Komissarova was heard speaking to him.

Medical staff briefed Putin on the surgery and further treatment, and the president “wished her a speedy recovery,” the statement said.

Putin also spoke by telephone with the skier’s worried father and told him “doctors will do everything possible for her recovery.”

Jenny Wiedeke, spokeswoman for the International Ski Federation, said the accident occurred on a series of jumps near the top of the course and Komissarova fell while exiting the third jump.

Adams was asked whether the course or conditions played a role in the crash.

“It’s primarily a question for the federation, but I understand she was training by herself when the accident happened,” he said. “Clearly we need to follow it very carefully but at the moment there’s no huge cause for concern. That’s not to underestimate yesterday’s accident. We take that very seriously and we hope she recovers.”

In women’s qualifying Sunday, Jackie Hernandez of the United States was knocked unconscious after slamming her head into the snow. She briefly sat up after several minutes and was communicating with medics before being transported down the mountain.

The crash came minutes after Helene Olafsen of Norway also was taken off the course with what appeared to be a knee injury.

American racer John Teller said Saturday that most of the competitors had been complimentary of the course setup but labeled it a “bigger course” that was “more of an X Games style of course.”

“I understand the athletes are happy with the course,” Adams said. “The athletes are taking part. I haven’t heard anyone saying they aren’t happy with the course.”

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