US Olympic snowboarding hopeful Kevin Pearce was in critical condition on Thursday after sustaining a head injury during training in the half-pipe in Park City, Utah.
Pearce hit his head against the edge of the half-pipe and was knocked unconscious. He was flown to the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City, where doctors planned to drain fluid buildup in the brain, according to Pearce’s mother, Pia.
Pearce, a 22-year-old from Norwich, Vermont, was among many of the world’s top half-pipe riders in Park City preparing to compete next week in a competition at Mammoth Mountain, California, an event that will serve as part of the Olympic trials for the US team.
Pearce, a favorite to make the Olympic team, is the rare rider who has beaten the 2006 Olympic gold medalist Shaun White in head-to-head competitions the past couple of years.
Mike Jankowski, the Olympic half-pipe coach for the US, said that Pearce was injured while trying a double cork, a supremely difficult trick — essentially a twisting double back flip — that most of the top men are trying to add to their repertoire this season.
“He did it a little too hard, put a little too much oomph into it, and over-rotated on his second flip,” Jankowski said.
He said that Pearce seemed to strike the edge of the pipe just above his eye. He said that the preliminary diagnosis was for a “significant concussion” and characterized Pearce’s injuries as “serious, critical.” A team trainer and medical director were with Pearce at the hospital.
Pearce’s father is Simon Pearce, one of the most renowned glass blowers in the world, whose Vermont-based company has retail outlets across the Northeast, including one on Park Avenue in New York.
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