We are heartsick. Everyone in the action sports community is. Today came the headline we were all hoping would not be published. Canadian freestyle skier and action sports pioneer Sarah Burke died nine days after crashing at the bottom of the superpipe during a practice run in Utah. Burke was 29 years old.
Sarah Burke Credit Image: © Rustin Gudim/ZUMAPRESS.com
Burke sustained a ruptured vertebral artery in the accident Jan. 11 and went into cardiac arrest. She was placed on life support and underwent surgery at a hospital in Salt Lake City but had "severe irreversible damage to her brain" because of the lack of oxygen and blood after the cardiac arrest, according to a statement released by Burke's publicist.
When the accident first occurred, there was still hope by many that a recovery was possible. But when Burke's family suddenly cancelled a press conference scheduled for Monday, word spread that the skier was fighting for her life.
Burke was a four-time Winter X Games champion and favored to win a fifth medal later this month. In 2010, she married another freestyle skier, Rory Bushfield and they lived near Whistler in British Columbia. Burke was a true pioneer with a passion and the best-known athlete in her sport. She will be forever remembered for her humility and the legacy she left for women in freestyle skiing.
"What defines Sarah now is what has always defined her," Canadian Freestyle Ski Association CEO Peter Judge told the Deseret News.
"She was always very gregarious, very outgoing and popular with those around her. She is very giving in terms of her time, especially in the sport. In many ways, Sarah defines the sport. She was one of the first people to get into the pipe and bring skis to the pipe. She's always been very dedicated in trying to define her sport, and it's never been about just winning. It's been about pushing the limits. She's always been more concerned about making herself the best, rather than comparing herself to other people."
Burke lobbied hard to get superpipe skiing added to the Olympic program and the discipline will debut at the Sochi Games in 2014. Rather than win Olympic gold, the one medal that eluded the champion, peers will be toasting Burke's memory when they compete on what will be the sport's grandest stage. Every athlete chosen to represent his or her country at the winter Olympics will feel her influence.
Beautiful both inside and out, Burke's passing has sparked an enormous outpouring of emotion on and offline as her many, many friends and fans express their sadness and disbelief. She was truly an icon and an inspiration.
According to the news release, Burke was surrounded by her loves ones when she died. Per her wishes, her organs and tissues were donated, a decision that will surely save several lives.
A public celebration of Sarah's life will be held in the coming weeks. For donations on her behalf: http://www.giveforward.com/sarahburke
Sometimes, life just isn't fair. #BelieveInSarah #RIPSarah
In memory of Burke and her amazing career, take a look at video highlights of her competing below (via Allisports.com).
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