KEARNS, Utah (AP) — Olympic hopeful Theresa Cliff-Ryan was injured Monday when she landed on her head after being struck on the sidelines by a crashing speedskater, likely ending her quest to make the team for Sochi.
Cliff-Ryan sustained a concussion and had several teeth knocked out, according to her coach, Matt Kooreman, who added that she was lucky the injuries weren't more serious.
"No long term debilitating brain or neck injuries — which was initially feared," he wrote in a text message to The Associated Press.
The 35-year-old Cliff-Ryan had her back to the ice during an off-day practice session at the Utah Olympic Oval, having completed her workout. Suddenly, Kevin Geminder lost his balance on the front straightaway while going full speed. He slid off the track and right into Cliff-Ryan, flipping her into the air. She landed face-first on the concrete surface, sending a collective gasp through the arena before horrified coaches and athletes raced to her side. Trainers rushed to the track within seconds and put her in a neck brace.
Cliff-Ryan was placed on a backboard and taken by ambulance to a hospital, where she was treated and released. She was conscious and talking to paramedics as she was carried across the ice on a stretcher.
Kooreman said Cliff-Ryan was taken to an oral surgeon to have her teeth repaired and would be re-evaluated again on Tuesday for her concussion and whiplash symptoms. But it seemed unlikely she would be able to compete in the final two events of the trials, the 1,500 and 5,000 meters.
"It's really sad," the coach said. "Thought she had a great shot at winning the 5,000."
Geminder just missed two-time Olympic gold medalist Shani Davis, who was sitting on a bench getting ready to go on the ice. Davis ran away as the crashing skater slid by, clearly shaken by the close call.
"I'm lucky that I was paying attention," said Davis, who has already made the U.S. team for Sochi but still has to qualify in one of his best events, the 1,500. "I heard it. I looked to where I saw the sound. I saw him sliding toward her. I just got out of the way."
Geminder ripped his suit but narrowly avoided hitting his unprotected head on a metal bench. He was checked by the coaches and said he was OK before skating away. He watched from across the ice as paramedics tended to Cliff-Ryan and apparently left the arena a short time afterward.