SAN SICARIO, Italy – American gold medal contender Lindsey Kildow somehow escaped serious injury in a frightening free-fall crash on her downhill training run Monday, moments after defending Olympic champion Carole Montillet-Carles of France was hurt in a spectacular fall.
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It was a day of crashes — four in all, including one that knocked a Canadian skier out of the Olympics with a torn knee ligament — on a course that was changed after skiers including Kildow complained it was too easy.
Kildow was taken by helicopter to a hospital trauma center in Torino, the games' host city about 50 miles down the Alps.
Kildow has a severely bruised left hip from landing on the course while traveling "about 50 miles an hour," said U.S. Alpine physician Bill Sterett, who is treating her. "She has no other significant injuries and has not ruled out competing in these games. I've known her for 10 years, and she's a very tough young lady."
She will be hospitalized overnight as a precaution, the team doctor said.
The 21-year-old Kildow lost control when her left ski slid out as she began to turn right around a gate on a rolling, relatively flat stretch midway through the run. She immediately went into an awkward split, with her right knee buckling and slamming against the ground.
Her momentum carried her into the air for about 15 feet and she landed on her back, slammed her head and slid to a stop. Kildow was heaving with pain as medical personnel rushed to her aid, her legs splayed awkwardly.
At the bottom of the course, spectators and skiers first saw Kildow on the large video screen, lying on her back. The crash was shown once, and those at the bottom of the course gasped. Renate Goetschl of Austria grabbed her head and turned away.
Kildow won two downhills on the World Cup this year and was ranked No. 2 on the circuit in the event. She finished second fastest during the first training Sunday.
After World Cup events on this hill last season, a chorus of racers complained that the terrain lacked variety. So Olympics organizers altered the landscape and added jumps — changes that drew praises from Kildow and others after Sunday's downhill training.
"It's not an easy downhill, that's for sure," said reigning World Cup overall champion Anja Paerson of Sweden.
Kildow's crash happened just eight skiers after Montillet-Carles of France lost control during a jump midway through her run and slammed into the protective fencing. She landed on her back and her head hit the snow, but she appeared to be conscious as she was taken to a clinic in nearby Sestriere.
French Ski Federation doctor Marie-Philippe Rousseau-Bianchi said Montillet-Carles, 32, suffered rib and back trauma and minor facial abrasions, but X-rays were negative.
The crashes came on a course made largely of machine-manufactured snow.
Canadian Allison Forsyth's Olympics ended after she crashed and was taken to a Torino hospital, where an MRI showed she had torn a ligament in her left knee, according to a statement by the Canadian team. Elisabeth Goergl of Austria fell but was able to ski down on her own.
"It's the Olympics. People are trying to take more chances," Canada's Emily Brydon said. "It is so rolly up there, you have to be on it all the time. If you relax for a bit, it will catch you."
Martina Schild of Switzerland was the fastest in Monday's run at 1 minute, 55.52 seconds. Goetschl was second at 1:56.28 followed by Austrian Alexandra Meissnitzer at 1:56.42. American Julia Mancuso, who skied right after Kidlow was removed from the slope, was fourth-fastest at 1:56.45.
American medal hopeful Mancuso, who waited near the start box as the next skier scheduled after Kildow, said the course condition was similar to the first training runs on Sunday.
"There's just a lot of rolls. Anything can happen," Mancuso said. "You can come off a jump, catch an edge and be a little unlucky."
Kildow's injury was the latest blow to an already depleted U.S. team. Caroline Lalive's season ended when she injured her left knee in a crash last month and slalom specialist Kristina Koznick has partially torn ligaments in her right knee and could miss her Feb. 22 race.