Three-time Australian Olympian Lisa Skinner suffered a frightening fall Sunday while performing with Cirque du Soleil in Brisbane, crashing 5 meters (16 feet) to the stage.
Skinner performing with the aerial hoop
Three-time Australian Olympian Lisa Skinner suffered a frightening fall Sunday afternoon while performing with Cirque du Soleil in Brisbane, crashing 6 meters (20 feet) to the stage.
Skinner, 35, was performing an aerial hoop act in the show Koozå when she slipped and fell to the stage below. She was rushed by ambulance to the hospital in a neck brace. Within a few hours, Skinner posted on social media that despite some injuries, she was expecting to make a full recovery. On Monday, it was reported that Skinner had suffered a fracture to her C1 vertebra and a broken arm.
Skinner's mother, Anne, told a Queensland radio station on Monday that her daughter was lucky after landing on her head.
"Today she is going to be fitted with what they call a halo brace to keep her head still... it will take about 6-12 weeks to heal," she said. "Her arms and legs work, which is the main thing, and she survived. She should recover but it will just be a long, hard road at this point."
The show resumed after Skinner's fall, though all audience members were required to remain seated until paramedics had taken the injured acrobat from the stage, per Cirque rules. Jessica Levoeuf from Cirque du Soleil said the circus prepares for accidents.
"It's something that we actually rehearse for different scenarios every single week at Cirque du Solei," Levoef said. "The safety and security of our artists and our patrons as well is always the number one concern. Our first response team reacted very quickly and the performer is responsive, is safe and is under great medical care at the moment."
Lauded for her beautiful lines and artistry, Skinner competed at the 1996, 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games. At the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, she placed eighth in the all-around and on floor exercise, the first Australian gymnast to ever reach an Olympic apparatus final. After a brief retirement, she returned to gymnastics in 2002. In 2003, she was a member of the Australian women's squad that won a historic bronze medal at the world championships in Anaheim, the first and only world team medal for Australia to date.
Additionally, Skinner was a two-time Commonwealth Games champion, winning gold with the Australian team and on uneven bars at the 1998 Games in Kuala Lumpur.
Skinner joined Cirque du Soleil in 2006, and performed in Alegría and Quidam. She only recently joined Koozå as it toured her native Queensland.
Despite the spectacular risks and acrobatics on display at Cirque du Soleil, serious accidents are rare. In 2007, Bulgarian Maia Tabakova, a world and Olympic medalist in rhythmic gymnastic, fell 10 meters (35 feet) while performing an aerial act in Las Vegas. In critical condition after her fall, Tabakova eventually made a full recovery and returned to performing until 2014. She is now a co-owner and coach at Nevada Rhythmic Academy in Las Vegas.
Cirque du Soleil, which was founded in 1984, has had two performer fatalities. In 2009, Ukrainian acrobat Oleksandr Zhurov was killed during training in a trampoline accident. In 2013, French acrobat and aerialist Sarah Guyard-Guillot was killed during a performance of Kà in Las Vegas, when her harness reportedly slipped off its safety wire, and she fell at least 15 meters (50 feet).
This article has been updated with additional information on Skinner's injuries.