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updated: 1/11/2012 12:27 AM

Top freestyle skier in coma after accident

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  • Associated Press, 2010 Sarah Burke was injured Tuesday during a training session in Utah and is in a coma.

    Associated Press, 2010 Sarah Burke was injured Tuesday during a training session in Utah and is in a coma.

Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY -- Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke was in a coma Tuesday after crashing during a training run on the superpipe in Park City, Utah.

In an email to The Associated Press, Peter Judge, CEO of the Canadian freestyle team, confirmed a report in the Toronto Globe and Mail that Burke was in a coma but didn't know what that meant for her ultimate recovery. He told AP he didn't expect any updates until early Wednesday.

"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 Globe and Mail. "It wasn't anything that looked like a catastrophic fall, so I'm a bit mystified."

A spokeswoman at University Hospital in Salt Lake confirmed Burke had been admitted and was being evaluated.

Andy Miller, spokesman at the Park City Mountain Resort, said the accident happened early in the afternoon.

"She was stabilized there at the scene by resort mountain patrol, who took her to base patrol, where she was flown to the hospital in Salt Lake," Miller said.

He said the half-pipe was the same one where snowboarder Kevin Pearce was critically injured during training on Dec. 31, 2009. Pearce suffered traumatic brain injuries but has since recovered and returned to riding on snow last month.

Burke's husband, Rory Bushfield, also 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," Bushfield told The Vancouver Sun.

Burke, 29, is a four-time Winter X Games champion in skiing superpipe -- a replica of snowboarding's half-pipe on skis. She lobbied aggressively to have the discipline included in the Olympics and was considered one of the top women's voices in the action sport's scene.

With the help of her lobbying, skiing half-pipe will make its debut at the Sochi Games in 2014. If healthy, she is expected to contend for a gold medal.

A few weeks before the 2010 Olympics, while she was still struggling to get her sport included, Burke conceded in an interview with the AP 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 her game and was scheduled to defend her title at the Winter X Games later this month in Aspen.

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