Today’s post is dedicated to Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke, a young woman who exemplified everything that is good. She was as outstanding a person as she was an athlete and a tremendous role model for young athletes. Injured in a serious training accident in Utah on January 10th, sadly she succumbed to her injuries today. She will be missed but never forgotten.
Sarah’s ever-present smile, along with her amazing talent and fierce determination to have women’s freestyle skiing accepted as an Olympic sport, is well-known to those who have followed her career. It was exhilarating to watch her ski and compete.
The best-known athlete in her sport, she will be remembered for the legacy she left for women in freestyle skiing. She set the standard for skiing in the superpipe, a sister sport to the more popular snowboarding brand that has turned Shaun White, Hannah Teter and others into stars.
A winner of several Winter X Games gold medals, she also won the 2005 world championships, was the first woman to land a 1080-degree spin (three full rotations) in competition and won the 2007 ESPY award as Best Female Action Sports Athlete. This winter Burke won four gold medals in superpipe at the Winter X Games and an additional gold in the event at the Winter X Games Europe, having swept both competitions.
Her determined lobbying with Olympic officials and fine representation of the sport were major contributing factors for women’s freeskiing (superpipe and slopestyle) acceptance in the Games. She was a gold medal favourite for the sport when it debuts at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Born in Barrie, she grew up in Midland, Ontario, a small community north of Toronto, and has spent the last few years in the Whistler, BC area. In 2010, she married another freestyle skier, Rory Bushfield, and they were headliners in a documentary film project on the Ski Channel called ‘Winter.’
‘Sarah, in many ways, defines the sport,’ Peter Judge, the CEO of Canada’s freestyle team, said before her death. ‘She’s been involved since the very, very early days as one of the first people to bring skis into the pipe. She’s also been very dedicated in trying to define her sport but not define herself by winning. For her, it’s been about making herself the best she can be rather than comparing herself to other people.’
“Sarah was a person who I think in many ways was larger than life and lived life to the fullest. She was a phenomenal representative of her sport and of young people, and of sport in general, and her participation in what she chose to do transcended that sport and went into a larger realm …” said Judge.
She was, Judge said, as committed to the grass roots of the sport – giving clinics to youngsters and working with up-and-coming competitors – as performing at the top levels.
‘She was a great, positive person for the whole team, the whole sport,’ said David Mirota, the Canadian team’s high performance director. ‘She enlightens the room, and she’s great.’
For information on donations: http://www.giveforward.com/sarahburke. “Her accomplishments on skis continue to inspire girls everywhere to believe in themselves and follow their hearts. Her passing is not a cause to pack up our skis, but rather a reason to step-in and ski for Sarah and the dreams that inspired her star to shine.”
Every once in a while someone comes along who makes a big difference in their own special way. Sarah Burke was one. She was 29. Gone too soon.