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Val d’Isere, France Dec. 8, 2001 (AP by Erica Bullman)–Swiss skier Silvano Beltrametti is paralyzed from the chest down after a crash during a World Cup downhill and will be transferred to a special facility in his home country.
After consulting with doctors at the hospital in Grenoble, Beltrametti’s family decided to move the 22-year-old skier to a center in Nottwil, Switzerland, on Monday as long as his condition remains stable.
The extent of the paralysis was confirmed Sunday. Beltrametti was injured in a high-speed accident during a World Cup race Saturday. At the time, doctors had been reluctant to move him from the hospital. He remains in intensive care.
Beltrametti was charging down a bumpy, icy hill at about 75 mph when he lost control and hurtled full force into the safety netting, slicing through it.
The fall caused a displaced fracture of the spine between two vertebrae high in the back and bleeding behind his lungs. He can no longer feel anything in his legs or pelvis.
Swiss team doctor Thierry Maitre said the injury could have been a lot worse had Beltrametti not been wearing a back brace.
“Maybe the break could have been higher, maybe he could have torn the aorta, in which case it would have been difficult to survive,” Maitre said. “It could have been worse with the force and the violence of the shock.”
Maitre said he examined Beltrametti and administered drugs intravenously as well as oxygen.
He said the skier’s awkward position as well as the cold made it difficult to work. Maitre said it took more than an hour before they were able to stabilize Beltrametti sufficiently to move him. He was taken by helicopter to the hospital in Grenoble.
“It took a long time,” Maitre said. “He was conscious but wanted to sleep. He was very fragile and the conditions for stabilizing him were bad. The desire to constantly look up and see the helicopter coming was very great.
“But he was remarkably and calm. He surprised us with his maturity and stoic character. The only thing he said every once in a while is, ‘I have pain.”’
Maitre said his condition was irreversible but doctors had to “wait and see how much he recovers.”
As a rookie last season, Beltrametti came in second in a downhill in Lake Louise, Alberta, and fourth in the downhill at the world championships in St. Anton, Austria.
He already had several serious accidents in his short career. In 1999, he broke his wrist in a downhill in Wengen, Switzerland. Last year, also in Wengen, Beltrametti injured vertebrae after crashing in the finish area.
French police have begun an investigation, standard procedure in such a case.
In another skiing accident at Val d’Isere, Austria’s Heinz Schilchegger tore ligaments in his left knee Sunday when he crashed during the opening leg of a World Cup giant slalom.
Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press