Photo: Joe Scarnici/Getty Images
Today, women everywhere have lost a leader. The poised, talented, and remarkably driven freeskier, Sarah Burke, passed away this morning at 9:22 am in the Park City University Hospital. One unfortunate fall in the 22-feet superpipe knocked Burke onto her head – despite wearing a helmet, the whiplash was severe enough to put Burke in cardiac arrest as she was rushed by mountain patrol and airlifted to emergency care. The crash on Tuesday, January 10th, left Burke in a nine-day coma as loved ones stood by her side in agony. Today, she finally rests.
The newsbreak of Sarah’s death has shocked the ski industry and athletes worldwide, in dismay of the horrific end to the young woman’s life. Tests revealed that Burke sustained “irreversible damage to her brain due to lack of oxygen and blood after cardiac arrest,” according to a statement released on behalf of her family. At only 29 years old, it is remarkable to reflect on what Burke had accomplished in her young life. A four-time X Games gold medalist and pioneer for the sport of freeskiing, the next goal on her to-do list was standing on the Olympic podium.
“In many ways, Sarah defines the sport,” stated Peter Judge, CEO of the Canadian Ski Association. “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.”
Sarah Burke was one of the most influential athletes in the world. Her voice was loud enough to create opportunities for women to compete and be recognized for their talents. Sarah never gave up, as her persistence finally convinced the Winter Olympic Games to include her sport. Women’s Freestyle Skiing Halfpipe Competitions will debut in 2014 at the Sochi Winter Olympics, in great part to this powerful leader in winter sports. She surely would have found herself standing high and proud on that Russian podium.
Sarah died doing what she loved; for her and so many other winter enthusiasts, skiing was what made life worth living. She leaves behind not only a legacy of awards and broken records, but also paved the road ahead for future female skiers all over the globe.
The stunningly beautiful Sarah Burke will always be remembered for her strength, as an idol for all female athletes, and a serious threat to the competition. As the best of the best athletes soar higher and farther, evermore dangerous is the fall. She reminds every athlete of the passion that drives us, of the butterflies in our stomachs as we try something new, and satisfaction of stomping new tricks. She reminds us of the synonymous relationship between snow and love, courage and bravery, and the risk in pursuing pure joy.
Sarah Burke was a role model, and as the face of freestyle skiing, skiers and snowboarders take a moment today to reflect and appreciate those dear moments we have on the mountain, and the people that make it worthwhile.
Our deepest condolences to Sarah’s family and loved ones. Sarah is survived by her husband, Rory Busfield, and the Burke family.
Today, a star has fallen.