Sarah Burke, a top Canadian freestyle skier who was a gold-medal hopeful heading into the 2014 Winter Olympics, is in critical condition after crashing on the half-pipe course Tuesday afternoon.
“Sarah sustained serious injuries and remains intubated and sedated in critical condition,” Dr. Safdar Ansari, a neurointensivist with University of Utah Health Care said in a statement released by Burke’s publicist to ABC News. Burke is currently in the hospital’s Neuro Critical Care Unit.
The 29-year-old Winter X Games winner was on a training run in the Eagle Superpipe at Park City Mountain Resort in Utah Tuesday when she hit her head after a faulty landing. Burke was treated by ski patrol and then airlifted to University Hospital in Salt Lake, according to ESPN.
“It didn’t look like it was a real stunner of a fall, but obviously it was one of those ones where she hit just right and it was more pointed than it appeared,” Canadian Freestyle Ski Association CEO Peter Judge told the Vancouver Sun.
The 22-foot half-pipe was reportedly the same one where snowboarder Kevin Pearce crashed during a complicated stunt two years ago, leaving him with a traumatic brain injury. Pearce went through two years of intensive therapy to relearn how to walk, talk and took his first ride on a snowboard in December.
Burke’s husband, skier Rory Bushfield appealed to the public on Twitter late Tuesday, asking for help arranging travel for him and Burke’s mother to get to Salk Lake City. According to Burke’s publicist, the family is now with Burke at the hospital.
“Sarah is a very strong young woman and she will most certainly fight to recover,” Bushfield said in a statement released by her publicist.
The family requested privacy to focus on Burke’s recovery.
Burke, a four-time Winter X Games champion and 2005 half-pipe world gold medalist, was preparing to compete at the Winter X Games later this month in Aspen, Colo.
Described as a “pioneer” in the sport, Burke pushed to bring women’s freeskiing to the X Games and successfully lobbied for women’s skiing superpipe to be added to the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, where she was a favorite for a gold medal.
“She’s kind of been the face of the sport,” Judge told the Vancouver Sun. “She always pushed it to the next level and defined herself on what she could do, not measuring herself by others around her. She’s always been aggressive that way. It’s a good thing as a role model for female sport and her sport. It was critical for her to take that leadership role. It’s something she was comfortable doing and she did a great job of it.”
Fans and members of the skiing and snowboarding community flooded Burke’s Facebook page and took to Twitter with well-wishes.