Sochi 2014: Sarah Burke watches over Sochi halfpipe as women debut

Sochi 2014: Tributes poured out yesterday for Sarah Burke, who campaigned to get ski halfpipe into the Olympics but tragically died before she could partake

By Michael Stafford-Jones

There was one person on the mind of every woman competing in yesterday’s inaugural ski halfpipe event at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. Sarah Burke.

Burke’s tireless campaigning was highly influential in getting women’s ski halfpipe accepted into the Games and she was the favourite to win gold in Sochi.

Her husband Rory Bushfield said on American TV last year she would have won, no question, if she was still around to spur on and inspire her rivals.

When Sarah died, it brought everyone in the freeskiing community back to the importance of togetherness. Her death, tragically, united us

Jen Hudak

On January 19, 2012, Burke, aged 29, sadly tragically died at the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City following a severe vertebral injury suffered while training at the nearby Park City Mountain Resort halfpipe.

The popular Canadian won four gold and two silver medals in the women’s superpipe at the X Games and was considered by many to be the best female freestyle skier ever.

But she is remembered for so much more than her sporting achievements.

Sal Masekela, one of ESPN’s hosts for the Winter X Games, spoke about Burke in glowing terms in the X Games tribute video shown eight days after her death.

“If you met Sarah Burke once, you had a friend for life. She was a superstar with the humility of a rookie,” said Masekela.

“If you are looking for her legacy, you will find it in all the faces that you see here tonight and all those that line half-pipes and come down mountains around the world for years and years to come.”

Burke’s friend and mentor, Mike Douglas (known as the Godfather of freeskiing), said: “She made her name as a skier, but her legacy is really built on her qualities as a human being.”

One of Burke’s closest competitors, American Jen Hudak, said her tragic accident had brought a more supportive atmosphere into the sport.

“When Sarah died, it brought everyone in the freeskiing community back to the importance of togetherness. Sarah transcended our sport and impacted people’s lives well beyond skiing. Her death, tragically, united us.”

Canadian skier Rosalind Groenewoud finished seventh and paid tribute to her fallen compatriot – as promised on Twitter – by tapping her helmet where her #celebratesarah sticker would be (if the IOC had not banned it).

American Maddie Bowman claimed the gold from France’s Marie Martinod and Japan’s Ayana Onozuka, though it was not just those competing who were keen to remember Burke, as shown by the following tweet.

Her legacy, helped by the likes of snowboarder Kevin Pearce, once one of the world’s greatest exponents of the sport but who suffered a serious brain injury in a devastating training accident in 2009, will no doubt drive freestyle skiing and snowboarding to new heights after a spectacular Olympic debut.

Samsung are a proud partner of Team GB and are supporting the Samsung Galaxy Team. To meet the team, see exclusive content and win amazing prizes, including once-in-a-lifetime winter sport training sessions with the Samsung Galaxy Team athletes, visit: www.samsung.com/uk/sochi2014

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