Sarah Burke, the competitive skier who fell during training for a personal sponsor event on Wednesday, is now in a coma after surgery.
Witnesses to the accident said the fall did not look as dangerous as it has turned out to actually be. The 29-year-old Canadian freestyle skier is currently in a Salt Lake City University Hospital.
Although the exact details of her injuries were not disclosed, a statement by the athlete’s publicist said Burke “sustained serious injuries and remains intubated and sedated in critical condition.”
"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," CEO of the Canadian freestyle team Peter Judge told the Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper.
"It wasn't anything that looked like a catastrophic fall, so I'm a bit mystified," he added.
The doctor for the Canadian freestyle skiing team, Robert Foxford, said Burke’s coma was induced after she was airlifted from the mountain resort and taken to the hospital.
“That would be the standard procedure for someone with a significant brain injury,” Dr. Foxford said.
Burke’s publicist said in a statement that Burke’s husband and family “wish to express their sincere thanks to everyone, all over the world, for their heartfelt thoughts, prayers, and well wishes,” according to The Toronto Star.
“Sarah is a very strong young woman and she will most certainly fight to recover.”
Burke was pivotal in getting freestyle halfpipe in the 2014 Olympic games. She has also won the Winter X Games for skiing Superpipe four times, a different form of halfpipe.
Questions have been raised regarding the safety of the freestyle sport. Burke was on the same halfpipe where snowboarder Kevin Pearce fell and suffered a vicious brain injury on December 31, 2009.
Burke had been scheduled to defend the 2011 championship title she earned this month.