Updated: Friday, 31 January 2014 03:07 | By Agence France-Presse

Brazilian skier seriously injured ahead of Sochi Games

Brazilian freestyle skier Lais Souza, who was to compete in the Winter Olympics in Russia, is unable to move her arms and legs following a training accident in the United States.

Brazilian skier seriously injured ahead of Sochi Games

Brazil's Lais Souza concentrates before performing during a floor exercise qualifying round on March 18, 2006 in Lyon, central eastern France - by Martin Bureau

A medical bulletin posted on the website of the Brazilian Olympic Committee said Souza was "in serious condition even though she remains conscious".

They said they were still hopeful that the paralysis would not be permanent.

"She is in intensive care, is breathing with the help of ventilators and is unable to move her arms and legs," it added.

During training in the western US state of Utah Monday, the 25-year-old Souza, who competed as a gymnast in the summer Olympics in Athens (2004) and Beijing (2008), slammed into a tree.

"A branch hit her in the neck" and the spine's third vertebra was damaged, said Stefano Arnhold, president of the Brazilian winter sports Confederation.

Souza underwent surgery to realign her spine and can now move her shoulders and two more operations are scheduled.

"We cannot make any long-term prognosis. She is receiving excellent care," said Antonio Marttos, the Brazilian Olympic team's doctor who is in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Souza chose to switch to freestyle skiing and to compete in her first winter Olympics in Sochi next month.

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