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Brazilian skier fights for life after accident

Saturday, February 01, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah - A Brazilian gymnast who was due to compete in the freestyle skiing competition at the Sochi Olympics is fighting for her life after hitting a tree during a recreational skiing session in Utah.

Lais Souza, 25, is unable to move her arms or legs and can't breathe on her own following the accident which occurred on Monday.

Brazilian team doctor Antonio Marttos confirmed the news of her injuries at a news conference in Salt Lake City.

"Right now, her spirits are very good," Marttos said.

"She is a fighter. Athletes always do better, to improve."

Doctors haven't declared Souza paralysed, but admit there's a possibility of permanent damage.

"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.

Dailey said Souza has no feeling in her arms or legs but claimed it's still too soon to know whether she'll regain feeling.

The young Brazilian, who participated in the 2004 and 2008 Summer Olympics as a gymnast, has been skiing for about six months. Dr Holly Ledyard, a member of the University of Utah hospital's neuro critical care unit who is overseeing Souza's treatment, said her relative skiing inexperience didn't play a role in the accident, but said the long-term future could be bleak.

"Souza is relying on a breathing machine, and it's possible she may have to for the rest of her life," Ledyard said.

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