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Thursday, July 15, 2004
Ziesmer falls during floor exercise

Associated Press

BERLIN -- A German gymnast who was expected to contend for a medal at the Athens Olympics broke his neck during practice, and doctors expect him to remain paralyzed.

Ronny Ziesmer fell during a floor exercise Monday, breaking a neck vertebra and damaging his spinal cord. He was executing a double somersault. His arms and legs have been paralyzed since.

"We assume that the paralysis will remain as it is," Dr. Stephan Becker of the trauma hospital in Berlin said Thursday.

Walter Schaffartzik, chief of the clinic, said the spinal cord injuries were irreversible.

Johannes Hablik, another German gymnast, has been paralyzed since 2002 after a similar accident.

"We have relatively fewer injuries compared to other sports, but when we have them they are more serious," German gymnastics federation president Rainer Brechtken said.