With the Sochi 2014 Olympics soon to be a memory, athletes from all sports are remembering a pioneer of winter sports. Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke would have been a gold medal hopeful at this years winter games if not for a tragic accident that ended the 29 year-old skiers life in 2012.
Burke, a pioneer in the world of freestyle skiing, was a multiple X-Games champion, World Champion, as well as the winner of countless other competitions. She was the driving force in getting freeski halfpipe competition added to the 2014 Olympics. But more importantly she was the inspiration for many other young skiers. Including French athlete Marie Martinod, silver medal winner at Sochi. Martinod had snowflakes painted on her fingernails. Burke had snowflakes tattooed on her foot, and it has become the symbol of the Sarah Burke Foundation.
There were multiple small tributes to the Canadian skier throughout the competition. Although International Olympic Committee rules don’t allow for the “Sarah” stickers and armbands that skiers have been wearing since Burke died Jan. 19, 2012, nine days after a training accident in Park City, Utah. Awaiting the score for her qualification run, France’s Anais Caradeux mouthed, “I love you Sarah.” Canadian Rosalind Groenewoud tapped her helmet where a “Sarah” sticker would have been.
“Sarah has inspired us on snow and off snow, and she would have been very proud of how all of the girls rode tonight,” gold medalist Maddie Bowman of the USA said. “I sure hope that I and everyone else made her proud, because we would have not been here without her.”
And while the Olympic Committee didn’t allow for the stickers and armbands, they did allow a moving tribute to the Canadian skier before the start of the halfpipe event. Before the first run , a group of Sochi volunteers skied down the halfpipe in the shape of a heart to honour Burke.
And now it has come out that some of Burke’s ashes were spread over the Sochi halfpipe course by a Canadian ski coach Trennon Paynter, and Sarah’s husband Rory. It was done without the knowledge of the IOC. Burke’s ashes were spread not only on the pipe, but during a team picture at the Olympic rings in the mountain village at Rosa Khutor. The ashes also got to ski the pipe, as the coach managed to take the container down for a few training runs.
Burke has actually been a well-travelled soul since her death. “We scattered some of her ashes earlier at a ceremony (in Whistler), right after she passed away, and Rory has taken some out to Ontario. I scattered a few in Hawaii on a beach over Christmas, so she’s all over the place. She’s adventuring around the world, as she should be,” Paynter said.
Sarah’s mom Jan Phelan is in Sochi to witness her daughter’s dream come to reality. She told CBC, “It’s what she worked for in her life. And I do believe she will be there, her spirit will be there”.
In the video below, Burke’s dad talks about how overwhelmed he was by the on course tribute.
For a moving tribute to the life of Sarah Burke, be sure to read this blog post by Doog News friend, and afternoon radio host for Victoria radio station, Ocean 98.5, Rob Michaels. He talks about his friendship with former Ontario ski team member Sarah Burke. Titled “A Tribute from an Old Friend” it includes some photos of a young Burke from her early days of training. Find the blog post on the Ocean website.
And watch this heartwarming tribute to Burke from Canadian Olympic Broadcaster CBC, which includes interviews with her friends and family.
For another touching story from the Sochi Olympics, check out what this Canadian coach did when a competitor’s ski broke during the cross country event.
Video Source: CBC