For some skiers, like gold medalists Mikaela Shiffrin and Ted Ligety, the Sochi Olympics are an event to be looked back upon fondly. For others, however, the games will last as a stark reminder about the dangerous nature of winter mountain sports. Russian skicross racer Maria Komissarova will likely remember the games not because they were hosted by her home country, but because of the crash that broke her back and left her paralyzed.
The 23-year-old skier was injured during a training run at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. After being treated on the scene initially, she was transported to the Krasnaya Polyana Hospital Number 8, which was built specifically for the games. Unfortunately, it does not seem likely that the emergency surgery was enough to enable a full recovery.
“Due to the severity of the injury, the functions of the spinal canal are not regenerating,” the Russian Federation said in a statement. “In the opinion of the specialists, Maria will be able to move around independently using special equipment.”
Recovering from injuries is nothing new to Komissarova, as she rebounded from a leg injury just to qualify. Perhaps that recovery has helped her remain optimistic.
“I do not feel my body lower than my belly button. But I am strong and I know that someday I will definitely be on my feet again,” she wrote on her Instagram account.
For now, she remains at a rehabilitation facility in Munich and will stay there for another three months or so. It is hard to predict exactly how her broken spine will heal, but her hopeful nature should certainly help.
Skiing accidents and injuries are all too common and serious injuries are not only reserved for professionals and Olympians. The speed and adrenaline rush that comes from speeding down the mountain attracts millions of people every year. Over time, safety measures have improved and there has been a 70% increase in helmet use since 2003. However, since back and internal injuries are so common, safe skiing, and not just a helmet, is always smart.
Unless the miraculous occurs, it seems that Komissarova’s promising career is over. Being safe and not pushing limits too hard is the best way for casual skiers to limit the chances of life-altering crashes of their own.