Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke went into cardiac arrest immediately after her accident during a sponsored superpipe event at Park City Mountain Resort last Tuesday, according to Utah hospital officials.
"Sarah did go into arrest on the hill at the time of the accident last Tuesday," the CBC's Keith Boag reported for News Network. "And she was resuscitated by the first responders who we believe were ski patrol on the hill.…had she not been able to get immediate treatment, she may not well be here at all today."
The family was set to hold a news conference Monday, but decided to cancel it after meeting with Burke's physicians.
"So it seems pretty clear that’s not good news," said Boag. "It’s a stretch to say that it is bad news. We talked with the public relations people here about the state of mind of the family and there were a couple of things they were concerned about. First of all, based on the information they got last night, which they have not shared with us, they were not sure that there was a point to having a news conference. They’re not sure they’d be able to answer the questions being asked.
Risk part of the sport
On the day her sport finally gained Olympic status last year, Canadian freestyle skier and halfpipe pioneer Sarah Burke also discussed the dangers accompanied with the discipline.
Burke, who is in a coma after suffering an injury while training on a superpipe last Tuesday in Salt Lake City, Utah, spoke with CBC reporter Teddy Katz during a wide-ranging interview on April 5, 2011, including the risks freestyle skiers take, and the gratification from the news that skiing halfpipe would be part of the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
"Everything that you see has been well calculated, but it’s always risky and it’s a tough sport on the body," admitted Burke. "You’re going to take a lot of crashes learning and perfecting things. That’s something that you kind of know as you go into it."
A four-time superpipe Winter X Games champion and 2005 halfpipe world gold medallist, Burke played a major role in getting halfpipe added to the 2014 Winter Games.
Born in Barrie, Ont., Burke, who now resides in Whistler, B.C., has been considered one of the gold-medal favourites for Sochi.
After years of frustrations, she was elated when she received the news her sport would be part of the Olympic program.
"We’ve been fighting for years [and] it’s not been an easy road," said Burke. "It feels way better than I thought to hear the final vote. As much as we could’ve prepared for it, it’s all very thrilling.
"I woke up checking my phone a lot and keeping my fingers crossed. I knew it was looking good but you feel a little nervous. But finally when we heard that it was in, [I] was jumping for joy."
— Tony Care, CBC Sports
"Obviously there’s a possibility that the news they did receive was upsetting to them and they chose to cancel the news conference — for that reason as well — but we don’t know that for certain."
The 29-year-old Whistler, B.C., resident has been in critical care at the University of Utah Hospital Clinical Neurosciences Center in Salt Lake City since suffering a tear in her vertebral artery, which is located in the neck and supplies blood to the brainstem.
The tear caused bleeding to Burke’s brain and she remains in critical condition. Burke was placed in an induced coma and had surgery last Wednesday. She's at the University of Utah Clinical Neurosciences Center in Salt Lake City.
"In the days ahead there will be further tests," said Boag. "The doctors will be trying to reduce her sedation to get her to a higher level of consciousness. But how soon it will be before we have further information about that is something we just don’t know at this point."
Burke’s injury occurred during a landing on the halfpipe ramp, and according to Canadian Freestyle Ski Association CEO Peter Judge, the trick she was performing "was nothing out of the norm, nothing on the extreme end of the spectrum."
Burke's family released a statement Monday, explaining in part the decision to cancel the news conference.
"Late last night, Rory Bushfield, Sarah's husband, and members of her family met with physicians to discuss the results of Sarah's most recent neurological tests and assessments," Nicole Wool, Burke's' public relations person, wrote CBC reporter Teddy Katz in a email. "Based on the information they received, we regret to inform you that they have decided to cancel today's press conference in order for further tests to be conducted this morning and in the coming days.
"The family wants to express their deep appreciation for the overwhelming support Sarah has received from all over the world. They ask that everyone continue to keep Sarah and Rory in their prayers. Rory and Sarah's family remain at the hospital."
The family said more tests will be done and future updates on Burke's condition will come through her website.
Burke, a native of Barrie, Ont., who grew up in nearby Midland before moving to Squamish, B.C., was training with a private group at the time of the accident. Park City Mountain Resort spokesman Andy Miller said the accident happened in the early afternoon on the same halfpipe 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.
A four-time superpipe Winter X Games champion and 2005 halfpipe world gold medallist, Burke played a major role in getting halfpipe added to the 2014 Winter Games in Russia.
"Sarah is the top female halfpipe athlete in the world," Judge said last week.
"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."