Pole vaulting can be an extremely dangerous sport, as a March Vice article made clear. How it summed the potential for catastrophe: "At 20 feet, a pole vault accident is like someone falling off the roof of their house, while running as fast at they can with a thick pole in their hands." Such catastrophe struck on Thursday: During a practice jump that her manager described as routine, Austria's champion female pole vaulter landed just off the mat on her head and neck. The accident, which the Sydney Morning Herald reports was witnessed by her parents, left Kira Grunberg a paraplegic. The Austrian athletics federation said in a joint statement with the University Clinic in Innsbruck on Friday that the 21-year-old suffered "a fracture of the cervical vertebrae of the spine" and underwent "emergency surgery to stabilize her spine."
The statement puts it plainly: "At the moment, the continuation of her sporting career is not an option." In a post to her Facebook page, Grunberg's family notes the "tragic accident" didn't just end her career but also means a "new life" and "long and difficult" path for her. NPR reports she is now breathing on her own, and describes Europe's sporting world as in shock but rallying to support Grunberg financially. Deutsche Welle reports Grunberg holds Austria's women's record of 4.45 meters, which she set during the European Championships in Zurich in 2014. Read more about pole vaulting, its catastrophic injuries, and how the mat factors into things. (Read more sports stories.)