Swiss ski star paralysed for life

Marc Wälti (left) and press officer Harry Sonderegger announce the sombre news Keystone

The Swiss skier Silvano Beltrametti has been left paralysed for life after a horrific crash during Saturday's World Cup downhill race in Val d'Isère.

This content was published on December 9, 2001 - 00:46

Swiss team spokesman, Marc Wälti, told swissinfo that official diagnoses had revealed irreperable damage to Beltrametti's spinal cord, resulting in paralysis of his lower body.

"The doctors have told us he will be paralysed for life," Wälti confirmed. "Right now he's in intensive care at the hospital in Grenoble but in a stable condition."

Wälti added that the 22-year-old star had also suffered haemorrhaging in his lungs, but that his life was not in danger.

The speed specialist had made an impressive start to Saturday's race and looked supremely confident as he sped down the slope, riding the tails of his skis with absolute precision.

But Beltrametti then appeared to hit a bump and lose his balance. He crashed spectacularly as his skis sliced through the safety netting at the side of the course.

Team officials said he did not hit any trees but was stopped by a mattress-covered pillar.

Beltrametti was found fully conscious on a pile of rocks with his helmet split open on one side. He received emergency treatment on the piste before being placed in a stretcher and airlifted away by helicopter to the hospital in Grenoble.

Race organisers said all security measures taken were in accordance with International Ski Federation standards.

Podium finish on Friday

Beltrametti had made a good start to the season on Friday, when he took third place in the opening World Cup super-G race. Swiss compatriot, Didier Cuche, finished second in the same race.

Saturday's race was halted for around an hour following Beltrametti's crash while course officials worked to replace the safety netting.

After the course was given the all-clear by race organisers, Austria's Stephan Eberharter went on to win the men's downhill with a time of 1:59.89.

But by then, for the Swiss team at least, the results had become almost irrelevant.

"I haven't seen any of the athletes since leaving for the hospital," Wälti told swissinfo, "but they must all be in shock. It's all very sad."

Saturday's horrific crash was the second of Beltrametti's career. Two seasons ago, the young talent suffered a terrible crash in Wengen only to make a full recovery within months.

Medical opinion in Grenoble this weekend clearly considers a similar recovery this time around to be unthinkable.

by Scott Capper and Mark Ledsom

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