By Ossian Shine
SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Doctors are operating on Russian skicross racer Maria Komissarova's spine after the 23-year-old was seriously hurt in training on Saturday.
Komissarova sustained the injury while training at the PSX Olympic skicross venue at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. She was taken to Krasnaya Polyana Hospital Number 8, which was specially built for the Olympics, where doctors decided to operate.
"During one of her training runs, Maria injured her spine," team head of press Mikhail Verzhba said. "It is a serious injury.
"The operation is taking place as we speak. Difficult operations take time and it certainly will not finish in the next two to three hours. I do not want to make any conclusions concerning Maria's career, until the operation is completed."
Verzhba said the athlete had received medical assistance almost immediately.
The 1,200 meter skicross course at Extreme Park is a medium-pitch slope which features cambered turns, gap jumps, drops and flat sections.
The skiers race down the course in groups of four in a test of speed, skill and aggression with the first across the line the winner.
"Slopestyle is a sport with a certain risk, you will never be able to exclude any kind of risk," IOC President Thomas Bach said.
"We feel very sorry for the athlete. We are in contact with the hospital. What we know is that she is under surgery right now. We hope that the operation will be successful and that she will be back."
Bach said that, as he understood it, the accident had nothing to do with conditions at the Extreme Park.
"The first information is that it was nothing to do with the infrastructure, the snow conditions. It was in a training session and this unfortunate incident happened.
"We will see how it goes, now our thoughts are with the athlete."
Komissarova's accident comes two days after a track worker at the February 7-23 Olympics was struck by a bobsleigh, suffering two broken legs.
The worker was hit by the "forerunner", which is sent down the track ahead of the official competitors to check for safety.
Russian ski jumper Maksim Maksimochkin was taken away on a stretcher on Wednesday night after crashing during practice on the large hill. He spent the night in hospital and was diagnosed with two fractured ribs.
On the slopes, Liechtenstein's medal hope Tina Weirather missed the downhill and super-G after suffering a heavy bruise when she fell in downhill training on Sunday. She was not entered in the combined.
Slovenia's Rok Perko broke his nose in a fall in men's downhill training, while French skier Brice Roger tore his anterior cruciate ligaments in the same training session and is out for six months.
Canadian Marie-Michele Gagnon dislocated her shoulder after straddling a gate in the super-combined on Monday. She returned for the super-G today but skied out.
In figure skating, Jeremy Abbott slammed into the barriers after falling on his opening jump. He lay grimacing in pain for almost a minute but then finished his program.
Komissarova's crash, though, marks the first major athlete accident of the Sochi Games.
Four years ago, a tragic pall hung over the last Winter Olympics in Vancouver when Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili died in a crash during a training run on the day of the opening ceremony.
(Additional reporting by Nick Mulvenney and Alexei Anishchuk in Sochi; Alan Baldwin and Dmitry Rogovitskiy in Rosa Khutor; Editing by Peter Rutherford)