Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke was in a coma Tuesday after crashing during a training run on the superpipe in Park City, Utah.
Andy Miller, spokesman at the Park City Mountain Resort, said Burke was taken off the mountain by members of the resort’s mountain patrol after the accident and airlifted to a Salt Lake City hospital.
Peter Judge, CEO of the Canadian freestyle team, confirmed later in an email to The Associated Press that Burke was in a coma, but he didn’t know what that meant for her ultimate recovery.
“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,” Judge told the Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper. “It wasn’t anything that looked like a catastrophic fall, so I’m a bit mystified.”
Burke is a four-time Winter X Games champion in skiing superpipe — a replica of snowboarding’s halfpipe on skis. She lobbied aggressively to have the discipline included in the Olympics, and it will make its debut at the 2014 Sochi Games.
If healthy, Burke is expected to contend for a gold medal.
Miller said the halfpipe was the same one where snowboarder Kevin Pearce was critically injured during training two years ago. Pearce suffered a traumatic brain injury but has since recovered and returned to snowboarding last month.
Burke’s husband, Rory Bushfield, put out a message on Twitter seeking someone with a private jet who might help him and Burke’s mother expedite a trip from Vancouver to Salt Lake City.
“Sarah is a very, very strong human and she will be fine,” he told The Vancouver Sun.
While she was still struggling to get her sport included a few weeks before the 2010 Olympics, Burke conceded in an interview with The Associated Press that it was frustrating to be on the outside looking in.
“I think we’re all doing this, first off, because we love it and want to be the best,” Burke said. “But I also think it would’ve been a great opportunity, huge for myself and for skiing and for everyone, if we could’ve gotten into the Olympics. It’s sad. I mean, I’m super lucky to be where I am, but that would’ve been pretty awesome.”
Burke missed significant time in 2009 when she landed awkwardly and broke a vertebrae in her lower back. Since healing, she has returned to the top of the sport and was set to defend her title at the Winter X Games later this month in Aspen, Colorado.