The 2018 Winter Olympics marched onward Thursday, with competitors facing off in a slew of events. But one question is looming over the proceedings right now, and that's whether Markus Schairer is OK after the Austrian snowboarder suffered a gnarly fall during competition. The 30-year-old, three-time Olympian crashed in horrifying fashion during his quarterfinal run and reportedly suffered a major injury.
According to reports, Schairer fell and hit the ground at a high speed during the men's snowboard cross competition, hitting the back of his head on the track. He did manage to rise to his feet and get to the bottom of the track, but he was clearly in physical pain. He was taken to a hospital, where doctors apparently determined that he fractured his fifth cervical vertebrae ― in simple terms, he broke his neck.
The news drew a lot of attention, especially as it involved a shocking and frightening mid-race injury. And it's stirred up a lot of concern for Schairer's well-being. It's still too early for us to know many concrete details about his condition. However, although as People noted, the Austrian Olympic Committee has stated that he's in stable condition and has shown no signs of neurological problems. Schairer is reportedly returning home to Austria for further tests.
The accident occurred on the final jump of the snowboardcross, as Schairer lost his balance in mid-air and went flying with his back to the ground, with his feet still attached to his board. He was in fourth place at the time of the accident, but from the very moment he lost balance in the air, it was clear that he was in considerable danger and would not be able to stick the landing. The video of the incident is disturbing and difficult to watch, even without the knowledge that Schairer has since received medical attention. As such, it won't be embedded here, but if you so desire, you can view it at NBC.
This was Schairer's third trip to the Olympics, having competed in the 2014 Games in Sochi at age 22, and then in the 2010 Games in Vancouver. He's never won a medal in any of the three Olympics, although he did win gold at the 2009 World Championships in Gangwon, South Korea.
As NBC noted, this is far from the first time Schairer has suffered injury in the course of his snowboarding career. He's reportedly suffered a major knee injury, broken five ribs, and torn multiple ligaments over the course of his long snowboarding career, but from the sounds of things, the recent incident is distinct and uniquely worrying.
Needless to say, Schairer's 2018 Olympics is over, as he's departed from PyeongChang to receive further medical care. He was vying for a spot in the semifinals when he crashed. From a competitive standpoint, it may be a disappointing way to exit the Olympic stage, but the most important thing right now is Schairer's health, much more so than whoever won the snowboardcross.
Schairer's fall and neck fracture hasn't been the only injury at the PyeongChang Games so far, but it's without a doubt the most evidently serious one. American skier Tommy Biesemeyer also suffered a heartbreaking injury in his final training run on Wednesday, hurting his ankle and forcing his withdrawal from the competition. It's the third straight time Biesemeyer has missed competing in the Winter Olympics due to injury.
Nonetheless, Schairer's injury ― at least judging by the update from the Austrian National Olympic Committee ― carried some concerns for his neurological health, as well as the broken vertebrae he suffered.