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Top skier still in critical condition after surgery at U. hospital

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A Canadian freestyle skier remained in critical condition Thursday after undergoing surgery to repair a torn artery in her neck -- an injury sustained during a fall while training.

Wednesday, surgeons at the University of Utah successfully operated on Sarah Burke, 29. She tore the artery while training on a half-pipe at the Park City Mountain Resort Tuesday, and it resulted in bleeding inside her skull. Doctors are paying close attention her brain.

With injuries of this type, we need to observe the course of her brain function before making definitive pronouncements about Sarah's prognosis for recovery.

–Dr. William T. Couldwell, University Hospital

"With injuries of this type, we need to observe the course of her brain function before making definitive pronouncements about Sarah's prognosis for recovery," Dr. William T. Couldwell, who performed the surgery, said in a statement.

"Our Neuro Critical Care team will be monitoring her condition and response continuously over the coming hours and days."

Meanwhile, people who know Burke continue to hope for the best. The news has devastated the small town of Midland, Ontario, Canada, where Burke grew up.

"The sport is very dangerous. But you know that she's good at what she does, and it's shocking to hear of an accident happening like that," said David Mirota, with the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association.

In Whistler, Burke's Canadian teammates continued to train Thursday. Mirota said it's been difficult.

"It's tough on the team," he said. "Just like us -- we don't have a lot of information -- they found out via Facebook and the Internet. So everyone, for sure, is saddened by the news."

Messages of love and support continue to fill Burke's Facebook page.

Dave Morin posted, "It is a very sad time in the sport of skiing and for skiers around the world. Sarah Burke is one of the icons and pioneers of our sport."

Burke's husband, Rory Bushfield, said, "Sarah is a very strong young woman and she will most certainly fight to recover."

Burke was also seriously injured in 2009 when she broke a vertebrae during an awkward landing. Since then, she had recovered and become one of the top skiers in her field.

She worked hard to have her discipline included in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, the first time it will make an appearance in the Olympics. She is a four-time Winter X Games champion in skiing superpipe.

The half-pipe Burke was skiing was also the spot where snowboarder Kevin Pearce sustained serious brain injuries after a failed landing two years ago.


Written with contributions from Sandra Yi.


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