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NYTimes: Big piece on Lais Souza, Brazilian Olympian Paralyzed at PCMR

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

Here it is:

   I somehow missed this - it's very, very sad. Sorry if this was posted before, I did a search on Epic and didn't see it. I don't recall a lot of coverage on this locally, like when Sarah Burke died. The really weird thing is that it happened freeskiing on a routine bump run. Double Jack is a serious bump run, but it's been hacked down by many an intermediate- she had only been skiing seven months and was with her coach & teammate. She was an Olympic gymnast crossing over to aerials... According to the article, she sought out the edge of the run where the bumps were smaller, lost control and headed into the aspens skier's right...hit one & broke her neck. Her coach, Canadian Ryan Snow had gone ahead, then the teammate, then Souza. From the accounts, they were  over their heads and going too fast. The coach had total confidence in their ability to ski a double black mogul run, they were olympic gymnasts, after all. They did not feel as confident. I've skied Double Jack a hundred times- including twenty five years ago when my buddies threw me down it after only a week on skis... it's nasty, but negotiable. I ski it slow and controlled these days unless it's a powder day (it's the most direct route to Jupiter Bowl...)

 I'm just very sad and upset that this happened on our mountain to such a promising young athlete.

post #2 of 5

I was at the Deer Valley World Cup preceding this accident. I got home to hear the news. At that time, there was a fair amount of local and national press. There was even a page on the Univ of Utah Medical Center site and then she was transferred to Miami. I did have a hard time finding updates in English after awhile--even in the freestyle groups. I am so glad the NYT did this article. I've also read about her fight to get a life pension from the Brazilian Olympic Federation.


I was reading the comments on the NYT and there was so much speculation that was blatantly wrong. I pointed out inaccuracies in a half dozen NYT picks comments and those picks were fortunately deleted. 


It is very common for athletes to go from gymnastics, diving, tumbling, or trampolining and convert to aerialists. China and Russia were the first to do it. The athletes were amazing in the air, but a few definitely had trouble skiing after the landing. Now the US has a similar program called the Elite Aerial Development Program.


I don't look at this as an average person skiing for seven months. This is a high skilled, Olympic gymnast adding another sports. The skills to ski probably came pretty quickly. However, in my opinion, the ability to recover from missteps is not there. It's a lot different having a decade of getting off balance and pulling through crud or being bumped off your line.


This accident did not happen during training--the biggest misconception. Plus, no one saw what happened.


While incredibly tragic, any one of us can catch an edge and veer off a run with equally tragic consequences.


From the outside, aerialists are viewed as a little crazy and dare devils. Yet, in reality, they are masters of calculated risk--a skill that Souza was well aware of as a gymnast. This occurred when she was 25--definitely an adult. If she thought she was in over her head, she could have chosen not to go on the run or stop on her way down. Ryan Snow, her coach, was 36 at the time and with an extensive competition and coaching history. I feel awful about what happened, but have seen way too many comments blaming the coach.

post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 

I had a roommate, Tony Blando, who was on the Freestyle D team doing aerials in the Trace Worthington era.  He was a Gymnast and coached Gymnastics, and was also a body builder (padding helps with crashes...). Gymnasts have a really good sense of where they are in the air and it's a natural transition... He was an accomplished skier & competition bumper.

   Even so, Double Jack can be no fun at all to a novice skier, but it's not the monster the Times described... certainly no killer...(very little at PCMR is, except maybe the chutes off the peak)..I think this was a case of very, very bad luck.


I hope she gets her pension.These kids work very hard with almost no outside support. See Bill Kerig's "Ready to Fly" about the woman's ski jumping team's march to the Olympics, if you haven't yet. The part about sleeping in a Swiss(?) hayloft above the cows really cracked me up- and made the point. 

post #4 of 5

Where does anyone get the idea that people only get hurt on very difficult runs or that skilled athletes are immune? Things like this happen on hard runs and easy, groomed or bumped, soft snow or hard, at high speed and slow, to beginners and experts. The same kinds of questions and misinformation came up after the Michael Schumaker incident. Fortunately injuries like this are very rare, but we should all be aware of the possibility any time we ski, no matter what we are skiing or how--like rx2ski says. 

post #5 of 5

^^ It's one of the reasons I don't get into the "just one more run" trap once I've gotten older. When you're tired and think what a great day this has been and just want to squeak at one more run when you're already excited and spent, just take a moment to enjoy the day.


This woman was on cloud nine--she had just qualified for the Olympics. She probably felt invincible.


And she is receiving a lifetime pension from the Brazilian Olympic committee ($1800/month). They changed the law to get her in. There was a technicality about the accident occurring before the names had been submitted to the IOC. The people would not stand for it in Brazil--especially with the Summer Olympics coming there. For Brazil, that is the salary of a professional or doctor; however, that is not enough for someone that needs full-time care. I believe someone else came forward and matched that amount.

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