Germany's three-time Olympic champion Maria Höfl-Riesch has suffered season-ending injuries in Switzerland. She fell heavily on the downhill course after winning gold in the discipline just hours earlier.
Maria Höfl-Riesch secured gold in the women's Alpine Skiing World Cup in Lenzerheide in the downhill discipline. But her hopes of winning the overall World Cup standings are over.
The 29-year-old was airlifted by helicopter to hospital with injuries to her left upper leg and left arm. Höfl-Riesch was not present on the podium to receive her award for the downhill title while the German national anthem rung out in the Swiss village.
The Alpine skier is the first German in 14 years to succeed in the discipline after Regina Häusl won the Gold in 2000.
Höfl-Riesch lost control halfway down the slope and crashed into safety netting, having already battled a fever this week to continue her competition in Switzerland.
The injury raises concerns about the three-time Olympic champion's future.
Austrian Anna Fenninger increased her advantage at the top of the overall World Cup standings. Although she only managed sixth in Wednesday's race - the season's 29th - Fenninger is on track for the overall championship title with 1191 points.
At the time of the crash, Bavarian Höfl-Riesch was 11 points behind with three events remaining.
'Bitter for Maria'
“At the end of such a good season, it is very bitter for Maria that she is not fighting for the final medals, "said the head coach for Germany's women skiiers Tom Stauffer.
Alpine director Wolfgang Maier told of how he was “immediately worried” about a possibly knee injury for Höfl-Riesch following two previous ACL tears in 2005.
“She has always said if they are seriously injured again, then it is over,” he said.
Last month, a silver medal in the women's Super-G at the Sochi Winter Olympics made Höfl-Riesch the third most successful female Olympic alpine skier of all-time behind Croatia's Janica Kostelic and Switzerland's Vreni Schneider. The Winter Olympics, generally, were largely positive for the Alpine skiier with gold in the Super-Combined event.
“I wish her all the best,” added rival Fenninger. “Let's hope Maria is okay and she can compete.
"As for me, I just need to focus on my two next races and not concern myself with what she can or cannot do.”
rd/ipj (AFP, AFPE, dpa, SID)