We are heartsick. Everyone is. Today came the headline we were all hoping would never be published.
Canadian freestyle skier and action sports pioneer Sarah Burke died Thursday morning, nine days after she crashed at the bottom of the superpipe during a training run in Utah. Burke was 29 years old.
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.
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 Colombia. Burke was the best-known athlete in her sport and will be forever remembered for 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 add superpipe skiing to the Olympic program and the discipline will debut at the Sochi Games in 2014. Rather than winning gold, the one medal that eluded the champion, competitors will be toasting Burke’s memory when they compete on what will be the sport’s grandest stage.
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 public celebration of Sarah’s life will be held in the coming weeks.
For those unfamiliar with the superstar skier, here’s a video profile of Sarah and her husband, Rory. They talk about their love for the mountains, their love for each other and after watching, you can’t help but love her.
Sometimes, life just isn’t fair. #BelieveInSarah #RIPSarah