Winter Olympics skier permanently paralysed

SYDNEY MORNING HERALD + AGENCIES
Last updated 11:43 06/03/2014
Maria Komissarova
Instagram

Paralysed: Maria Komissarova with fiance Alexei Chaadayev.

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A Russian freestyle skier who broke her back in a horrific training crash at the Winter Olympics last month has been permanently paralysed by the accident, doctors say.

Maria Komissarova says she can't feel her body below her belly button after she crashed during a training run for the ski-cross event in Sochi.

The 23-year-old, who was the face of Russian freestyle skiing in the lead up to the Games, fractured her 12th dorsal vertebrae in her lower-middle back in the crash at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park on February 15.

She had a metal implant inserted into her back during a six-hour operation at a hospital specially built for the Olympics, after which she was flown to Germany for further specialist treatment in Munich.

But the Russian Freestyle Federation said doctors in Germany had indicated that Komissarova had been permanently paralysed.

In a statement, the federation said Komissarova would only be able to move independently in the future "with the help of special devices".

"Due to the severity of the injury, the functions of the spinal canal are not regenerating," the statement said.

"Doctors in Munich said that she needed to remain in rehab for approximately 10 weeks, during which she will adapt to new conditions of life."

Despite the severity of her injury, Komissarova wrote in a message on her Instagram account last week that she was determined to walk again.

“"Thank you! It's been 10 days since my spine surgeries. I do not feel my body lower than my belly button,” she wrote.

“But I am strong and I know that some day I will definitely be on my feet again.”

She posted a photograph of herself lying down with her fiance Alexei Chaadayev, also a Russian skier, and said she would not have stayed sane without his support.

Ski-cross is one of the most frenetic and risky events of the Games, where four skiers race together down a slope filled with jumps, obstacles and banked corners.

International Ski Federation Jenny Wiedeke said at the time of the crash that it occurred as Komissarova exited the third of a series of jumps near the top of the course. Komissarova was stablilised and removed from the course on a stretcher.

Komissarova was not expected to be a medal contender at the Games, but was one of the most visible Russian athletes after posing for a series of racy pictures prior to the Olympics.

Her best career result was second place at a World Cup event in 2012.

Before she was flown to Germany, Komissarova was visited in hospital by Russian President Vladimir Putin, while the country's sports minister Vitaly Mutko had said that the state would pay for her treatment.

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