Skiing: Grugger has brain operation after crash

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Austrian skier Hans Grugger underwent an emergency operation for a brain injury after crashing during a training run for Saturday's men's World Cup downhill on the demanding Streif course.

The Austrian ski federation said Grugger had neurosurgery and his response over the next 24 hours would indicate how critical his condition was.

"Until then, it's impossible to say anything about how Hans is really doing," the federation's head of media relations Josef Schmid said.

The hospital's medical director Alexandra Kofler told Austrian broadcaster ORF that Grugger's injury "doesn't have to be life-threatening ... the patient's condition can only be judged based on the operation and the time immediately afterward."

Grugger fell after losing balance at the so-called Mausefalle, a long jump shortly after a sharp right turn, and landed motionless on the slope. He was brought to a hospital by helicopter in nearby Innsbruck and was "not responsive," according to the federation.

Speaking on behalf of local organizers and the race jury, FIS men's race director Guenther Hujara said that "we have seen rescue and evacuation working very accurately, very precisely ... We all wish that everything turns out well."

Hujara described the crash as "horrifying" but said that there was no need to change the Mausefalle section for Saturday's race.

Austria men's head coach Mathias Berthold declined to take questions by the media, saying "there is nothing more to say."

Grugger was the fifth racer on the course but the first to face troubles in that section.

According to Didier Cuche, who won the downhill race in Kitzbuehel last year, Grugger missed out on the ideal racing line and was not able to adjust.

"The problem is that you have several bumps in the first two turns," said the Swiss skier, who posted the fastest time when training resumed after more than 30 minutes. "If you can't keep your direction there, it can cause you real troubles."

Grugger's teammate Michael Walchhofer said the crash frightened him shortly before his own run.

"I saw the crash. It was really bad to watch," the World Cup downhill leader said. "If you see something like that, you start thinking: 'Should I do this to myself?' But you have to put that aside."

Grugger is the third racer in the last four years to get seriously injured after crashing on the 3.3-kilometer Streif course, which is famous for its dangerous bumps, turns and jumps.

In 2008, Scott Macartney of the United States suffered brain injuries and was kept in an induced coma after smashing his head on the icy slop following a crash at the final jump. The next year, Daniel Albrecht of Switzerland suffered life-threatening brain and lung injuries in a similar accident.

Both racers recovered and returned to World Cup ski racing.

"The bad crash by Hans Grugger has deeply touched me," Albrecht said. "I don't want to comment more on it. My thoughts are with him and his relatives."

The 29-year-old Grugger's career has been marred by injuries. He tore knee ligaments four times between 1998 and 2009 and was sidelined with a dislocated hip in '05.

Grugger has four career World Cup victories — two in downhill and two in super-G. He finished 22nd in last year's Olympic downhill race.