Injured Russian Olympic skier may be evacuated

STEPHEN WILSON AP Sports Writer Published:

SOCHI, Russia (AP) -- Olympic skicross racer Maria Komissarova was in "grave but stable" condition Sunday after surgery on her fractured spine and may be airlifted out of Sochi to another clinic for further treatment, Russian officials said.

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."

The 23-year-old Komissarova crashed during a training run Saturday, fracturing the 12th dorsal vertebrae in her lower-middle back. She was taken to a hospital near the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park and underwent emergency surgery lasting 6 ½ hours.

The Russian freestyle ski federation said a team of specialists inserted a metal implant in Komissarova's spine.

Russian and IOC officials declared the operation a success, though they declined to discuss the skier's prognosis.

"Her condition remains grave but stable. It's considered satisfactory taking into account the gravity of the trauma," Mikhail Verzhba, spokesman for the Russian freestyle ski federation, told The Associated Press.

Verzhba said doctors would decide whether to move Komissarova to another clinic, and a charter plane had been arranged.

"Logistically we have been totally prepared," he said.

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 on the 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 that 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 was also 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."

Several athletes have been injured during the games, including a Russian ski jumper who broke his ribs after landing awkwardly in a training accident, and an ice worker at the sliding venue broke both legs when he was hit by a sled before a practice run on Thursday.

"We are following athletes' health and safety very carefully," Adams said. "We're monitoring it. I spoke to the people who are doing the monitoring, and this morning they told me they don't appear to have any difference from previous games."

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Varya Kudryavtseva in Sochi contributed to this report.