Brazilian gymnast and Sochi hopeful severely injured in Utah skiing accident

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SALT LAKE CITY — A Brazilian gymnast who was expected to compete in freestyle skiing at the Sochi Olympics is unable to move her arms or legs and can't breathe on her own after she hit a tree while skiing in Utah this week, doctors said Thursday.

Lais Souza, 25, is fighting for her life and will definitely miss the Olympics, said Brazilian team doctor Antonio Marttos at a news conference in Salt Lake City.

She was injured Monday when she hit a tree while skiing recreationally in Park City, Utah, in an accident that doctors said could have happened to anybody. She was not injured while practicing her freestyle maneuvers.

Doctors aren’t declaring Souza paralyzed at this point, but recognize that’s a possibility. She dislocated a vertebrae near the top of her spine, said Dr. Andrew Dailey, a neurosurgeon with University of Utah Health Care. She remains in critical condition, still using a breathing machine and unable to talk.

“She has hope. We all have hope,” Marttos said. “Right now, her spirits are very good. She is a fighter.”

REUTTER CONTENT: She should be on her way to Russia. At 25, she should be at her athletic peak, strong and confident and poised to add to the two medals she won at the 2010 Winter Olympics. Instead, Katherine Reutter will be watching the Sochi Games on television.

Three hip surgeries and chronic back problems forced her to retire at the ripe old age of 24.

“I had a really short but a really sweet career,” she said. “Most people can go to two or three Olympics. I got one, but it was a great one. So I have no regrets.”

AUSTRIAN TRAINING: The U.S. figure skaters will do some of their training for Sochi in Austria.

Barbara Reichert, the spokeswoman for U.S. Figure Skating, says the organization secured ice time two years ago “to allow additional practice time. This is ... not in response to any security issues.”


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