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Pearce hurts head training on halfpipe

12/31/2009

PARK CITY, Utah -- American snowboarder Kevin Pearce sustained a head injury while training on the halfpipe Thursday and was taken to the hospital for surgery.

Pearce, a top-ranked halfpipe rider with a good chance of making the U.S. Olympic team, was knocked unconscious when he hit his head on the halfpipe during a training run.

He was taken to University of Utah hospital, but neither his agent nor officials from U.S. Ski and Snowboarding offered immediate updates on Pearce's condition Thursday evening.

The 22-year-old from Norwich, Vt., was preparing for next week's Olympic qualifying events in Mammoth Mountain, Calif. He was considered, along with Shaun White, to be one of America's top athletes in a sport dominated by the United States.

Olympic halfpipes are essentially hollowed out ice shells, the sides of which rise up to 22 feet in the air. Riders gain speed as they go from one side to another and fly several feet over the edges, where they flip and spin, often rotating 720 or 1080 degrees on a single jump.

Three weeks ago, Pearce fell during a preliminary run at an Olympic qualifying event in Copper Mountain, Colo., and sustained a concussion.