Burke injured in halfpipe demo 

X Games champion remains in a coma

click to enlarge BY ANDREW MITCHELL - Sarah Burke competes on home turf.

Squamish freeskier Sarah Burke is still in an induced coma and listed in critical condition, following a serious crash while halfpipe training at Park City, Utah.

"Sarah sustained serious injuries and remains intubated and sedated in critical condition, " said Safdar Ansari, M.D., a neurointensivist with the University of Utah Health Care in a press release from the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association.

Sarah's husband Rory Bushfield and her family are by her bedside and wish to express their sincere thanks to everyone, all over the world, for their heartfelt thoughts, prayers, and well wishes. "Sarah is a very strong young woman and she will most certainly fight to recover," said Bushfield.

Canadian Freestyle Ski Team doctor Robert Foxford said in a press conference Wednesday Jan.11, that induced comas and other steps like cooling Burke’s body are standard in serious head injuries until brain swelling is resolved.

Foxford said this type of injury is rare in the sport of freestyle skiing. "This is the first (serious head injury) to one of our athletes that I’ve seen, and I’ve been with the team since ‘96."

Sarah's family has asked that fans and media respect their privacy during this difficult time. Sarah's friends and fans are encouraged to post their well wishes on Sarah's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sarah-Burke.

The accident occurred on Tuesday afternoon (Jan.10). According to reports, the 28-year-old X Games champion landed on her feet but fell over, hitting her head on the hard-packed snow. Ski patrol performed first aid and she was quickly fitted with a respirator and breathing tube before she was airlifted to a hospital in Salt Lake City for emergency treatment.

"This is an extremely unfortunate situation and we are awaiting further word on Sarah's condition," said Canadian Freestyle CEO Peter Judge.

"Sarah is the top female halfpipe athlete in the world she was instrumental in launching the sport and has continued to be a leader moving towards the sport's Olympic debut in 2014. She is an incredibly resilient and strong young woman and we are hoping she will draw on that strength at this time. Our thoughts are with her and her family at this time."

The hospital would not comment on her status or the extent of other possible injuries from the crash. USA Today is reporting that she was to have surgery this afternoon, Jan.11

There was a massive outpouring of support for Burke on Twitter and Facebook, and the story attracted international media attention -- hardly surprising given her credentials in the skiing world.

Burke is arguably the best-known female freeskier in the world with four X Games titles to her credit, as well as wins in most of the other major halfpipe events. She has pushed the progression of the sport further than any other female athlete, and was the first female to land 720, 900 and 1080 spins in halfpipe competition, as well as various inverted and corked tricks. When the International Olympic Committee confirmed that ski halfpipe would be in the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Burke was instantly the favourite to win the gold.

She hails from Midland, Ontario and lived for stints in Whistler and California before settling down in Squamish with her husband. She also coaches at Momentum Ski Camps in Whistler during the summer months.

Burke only competed in a handful of events in the 2010-2011 season after getting surgery on her shoulder in July 2010. She won the first two World Cup events of the season and made an appearance at X Games.

As word spread of Burke's condition expressions of concern came in from across the freeski world.

Said Canadian Olympic Committee President, Marcel Aubut: "Sarah is a pioneer in her sport of freestyle skiing and Canadians are proud of her and all she has accomplished, not only for her sport, but for representing Canada so well on the world stage. On behalf of everyone at the Canadian Olympic Committee, I wish to express my heartfelt best wishes to Sarah Burke for a speedy recovery. Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this time."

"I don't normally pray. But I am right now," wrote Kristi Leskinen.

"Hoping @sara_j_burke is ok. Scary afternoon at Park City," wrote Anna Borgman.

Mike Douglas wrote, "I keep reminding myself that @sarah_j_burke is one of the toughest humans I've ever met. She'll be back!"

Her coach, Trennon Paynter, wrote, "Even while resting, her inner strength is clearly visible. Overcoming challenges is what she has always done best."

Pique will update the story as more information becomes available.

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