If Maria Komissarova represented the potential and future of Russian skiing, the devastating spinal injury she suffered at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi delivers a crushing blow to the nation's progression in the emerging discipline.
According to BBC Sport, a brutal accident suffered by Komissarova during a training run on Feb. 15 in Sochi resulted in a broken spine, which has left the 23-year-old paralyzed from the waist down.
Komissarova confirmed the news on her Instagram account, per the BBC Sport report, and expressed optimism that she'll recover: "I do not feel my body lower than my belly button. But I am strong and know that some day I will definitely be on my feet again."
Although Komissarova's Olympic medal chances were cut short because of her injury, she became the first Russian woman to win a World Cup medal in ski cross in 2012, finishing second to earn silver in Grindelwald, Switzerland. That result put her on the map, and she and her compatriots were eyeing the podium in Sochi.
The unique discipline, which was added to the Winter Games in 2010, is one of the most demanding forms of freestyle skiing, and Komissarova's unfulfilled promise will have Russians and fans around the world wondering what could have been, at least for now.
Even if Komissarova is able to eventually regain feeling in her lower body, a return to Olympic ski cross seems to be an incredible long shot given the severity of her injury. This marks the second serious injury she has sustained in recently, as surgery on her leg required her to miss six months in 2013.
If Komissarova is unable to fully recover, Russian skiing will not only be losing a tremendous athlete and competitor but also an ambassador for the sport.
In addition to her talents on the ski cross course, the charming young star was reaching new audiences and making headlines off the snow with her beauty.
While Russia was successful overall at the 2014 Sochi Games, winning 33 medals, including 13 golds, the hosts claimed only one medal in freestyle skiing. To put that in perspective, Canada and the United States combined to win 16 total in the discipline.
We'll never know how Komissarova would have fared in the ladies' ski cross at Sochi, but there's no doubt she had podium potential given her breakthrough in Switzerland in 2012.
Only time will tell whether Komissarova is able to make a successful recovery. Still, for the time being, the blow is a devastating one for Russian skiing, which has lost a promising Olympian and the face of its program.
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