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[an error occurred while processing this directive] Wednesday, 31 October, 2001, 13:12 GMT
Life's risk-takers
Ulrike Maier was killed in a downhill race in 1994
Ulrike Maier was killed in a downhill race in 1994
BBC Sport Online's Anna Thompson looks at the perils of the daredevil sport of skiing.

Regine Cavagnoud has become the latest high profile fatality on the ski slopes.

Her death has shocked the sporting world but sadly she is not the only skier to have lost her life competing in the high-speed sport she loved.

Cavagnoud, who was the reigning world super-G champion, died on Wednesday in hospital - two days after an horrific collision with a leading coach during training.

The French ski star was hurtling down the Pitz Valley glacier in Austria at more than 60mph when she rammed head-first into Markus Anwander.

Cavagnoud suffered severe brain damage and died without regaining consciousness.

Cavagnoud crashed at 60mph
Cavagnoud crashed at 60mph

Before Cavagnoud's death, the last fatality on the piste occurred in 1994.

Austria's two-time world champion Ulrike Maier was killed in a World Cup downhill race in Germany.

Maier broke her neck in Garmisch-Partenkirchen when she caught an edge, possibly after hitting a patch of soft snow, and veered off the course at 65mph.

Her helmet came off as she hit the rock-hard ground, then she slammed into a timing post and tumbled down the slope.

The 26-year-old had planned to retire at the end of that season and only decided to race in icy conditions in an attempt to pick up a few extra World Cup points.

High respect

Three years earlier, compatriot Gernot Reinstadler died when he crashed during training.

Reinstadler broke his pelvis and suffered massive internal injuries during training for a World Cup downhill in Wengen, Switzerland.

And in 1992, Austrian Peter Wirnsberger II died from injuries sustained in a fall during free skiing in Austria in 1992.

Skiing is a daredevil sport, where competitors frequently reach speeds of more than 60mph.

Skiers are held in high respect for their constant proximity to danger, even by fellow athletes in high-speed sports such as motor racing.

No other sport exposes participants to so much risk - just a few centimetres of ski dividing the racers from the snow or ice and with little protective padding.

Johnson won Olympic gold in the men's downhill in 1984
Johnson won Olympic gold in the men's downhill in 1984

It is hardly surprising then, that when things go wrong the consequences are sometimes fatal.

In the last 50 years, 15 professional skiers have been killed in accidents during competitions or training.

Many more have been seriously injured and unable to compete again.

Top Swedish skier Tomas Fogdoe was left paralysed after a training accident in 1995.

And earlier this year, Canada's Dave Irwin suffered critical head injuries in a crash and was left in a coma.

Ultimate price

Fomer Olympic champion Bill Johnson was also seriously injured in the spring as he attempted a comeback.

He has recently been released from hospital after months of rehabilitation following brain surgery.

Skiers know they have to live life on the edge and if they are to be successful, they have to throw caution to the wind.

The inherent danger makes skiing an exciting sport to watch and compete in.

But sadly it also means some pay the ultimate price in realising their ski dreams.

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