Skier has brain surgery after Kitzbuehel crash

Austrian skier Hans Grugger underwent brain surgery Thursday after crashing during a training run for the World Cup downhill on the demanding Streif course at Kitzbuehel, Austria.

Austrian skier Hans Grugger underwent brain surgery Thursday after crashing during a training run for the World Cup downhill on the demanding Streif course. at Kitzbuehel, Austria.

The Austrian ski federation said Grugger had neurosurgery and his response over the next 24 hours would indicate how critical his condition is.

"Until then, it's impossible to say anything about how Hans is really doing," the federation's head of media relations Josef Schmid said.

The hospital's medical director Alexandra Kofler told Austrian broadcaster ORF that Grugger's injury "doesn't have to be life-threatening … the patient's condition can only be judged based on the operation and the time immediately afterward."

Grugger fell after losing balance at the so-called Mausefalle, a long jump shortly after a sharp right turn, and landed motionless on the slope. He was brought to a hospital by helicopter in nearby Innsbruck and was "not responsive," according to the federation.

Speaking on behalf of local organizers and the race jury, FIS men's race director Guenther Hujara said that "we have seen rescue and evacuation working very accurate, very precise … We all wish that everything turns out pretty well."

Hujara described the crash as "horrifying" but said that there was no need to change the Mausefalle section for Saturday's race.

Austria men's head coach Mathias Berthold declined to take questions by the media, saying "there is nothing more to say."

Grugger was the fifth racer on the course but the first to face troubles in that section.

Didier Cuche, who won the downhill race at Kitzbuehel last year and posted the fastest time in Thursday's training, said Grugger missed out on the ideal racing line and was not able to adjust.

Hahnenkamm races on CBC

Live coverage of Friday's super-G and Saturday's downhill at Kitzbuehel can be seen on Bold and starting at 5:25 a.m. ET on both days. CBC-TV will replay the downhill at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday.

Sunday's slalom race will be shown live on Bold and, with the opening run set to begin at 4:10 a.m. ET, followed by the second run at 7:30 a.m. ET.

CBC is also carrying the women's downhill Saturday in Italy. Click here  for full broadcast details.

"The problem is that you have several bumps in the first two turns," said the Swiss skier, who posted the fastest time when training resumed after more than 30 minutes. "If you can't keep your direction there, it can cause you real troubles."

Grugger's teammate, World Cup downhill leader Michael Walchhofer, said the crash frightened him.

"I saw the crash. It was really bad to watch," said Walchhofer, who had the 10th-best time a day after injuring his throat when he straddled a gate while practicing for this weekend's super-G. "If you see something like that, you start thinking: 'Should I do this to myself?' But you have to put that aside."

Grugger is the third racer in the last four years to get seriously injured after crashing on the 3.3-kilometer Streif course, which is famous for its dangerous bumps, turns and jumps.

In 2008, Scott Macartney of the United States sustained brain injuries and was kept in an induced coma after smashing his head on the icy slope following a crash on the final jump. The next year, Daniel Albrecht of Switzerland sustained life-threatening brain and lung injuries in a similar accident. Both racers recovered and returned to World Cup ski racing.

The 29-year-old Grugger's career has been marred by knee injuries that kept him sidelined several times over the last couple of seasons. He has four career World Cup victories, two in downhill and two in super-G.

Erik Guay, who hopes to return to competition for this weekend's prestigious Hahnenkamm speed races at Kitzbuehel after skipping last week's races in Switzerland due to a recurrence of lower back pain, was the top Canadian finisher Thursday. He placed eighth.

Vonn, Mancuso top women's training

American teammates Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso placed 1-2 in the final training session Thursday for the prestigious World Cup downhill at Cortina, Italy.

With Elisabeth Goergl of Austria third, the top three results were exactly the same as the downhill at last year's Vancouver Olympics.

Vonn finished a distant 1.37 seconds in front of Mancuso, with Goergl 1.68 back.

Vonn has eight career podium finishes in Cortina, including three wins.

Maria Riesch of Germany, who holds a 1,023-827 lead over Vonn in the overall standings, placed seventh after leading Wednesday's opening training session.

The top Canadian was Britt Janyk of Whistler, B.C., in 26th.

Racing gets underway Friday with a super-G, followed by the downhill Saturday and another super-G on Sunday.

With files from

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