Canadian skier Sarah Burke dies from injuries - The Globe and Mail
Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke died Thursday, nine days after crashing at the bottom of the superpipe during a training run in Utah.
Burke was 29. She was injured Jan. 10 while training at a personal sponsor event at the Park City Mountain resort.
“Our hearts go out to Sarah's husband Rory and her entire family, Canadian Freestyle Ski Association CEO Peter Judge said in a statement. ”It's difficult for us to imagine their pain and what they're going through. Sarah was certainly someone who lived life to the fullest and in doing so was a significant example to our community and far beyond
Tests revealed Burke sustained “irreversible damage to her brain due to lack of oxygen and blood after cardiac arrest,” according to a statement released by Burke's publicist.
A four-time Winter X Games champion, Burke crashed on the same halfpipe where snowboarder Kevin Pearce suffered a traumatic brain injury during a training accident on Dec. 31, 2009.
As a result of her fall, Burke tore her vertebral artery, which led to severe bleeding on the brain, causing her to go into cardiac arrest on the scene, where CPR was performed, according to the statement by publicist Nicole Wool.
Wool said Burke's organs and tissues were donated as per her wishes.
“The family expresses their heartfelt gratitude for the international outpouring of support they have received from all the people Sarah touched,” the statement said.
Burke, a native of Barrie, Ont., who grew up in nearby Midland before moving to Squamish, B.C., was the best-known athlete in her sport and will be remembered for the legacy she left for women in freestyle skiing.
She set the standard for skiing in the superpipe, a sister sport to the more popular snowboarding brand that has turned Shaun White, Hannah Teter and others into stars.
Seeing what a big role the Olympics has played in pushing the Whites of the world from the fringes into the mainstream, Burke lobbied to add superpipe skiing to the Olympic program, using the argument that no new infrastructure would be needed — the pipe was already built — and the Olympics could get twice the bang for their buck.
She won over the Olympic bigwigs, and the discipline will debut at the Sochi Games in 2014.
Burke, who was favoured to win a fifth X Games title later this month, would have been a favourite for the gold medal in Sochi, as well. Instead, sadly, the competitors will have to toast to her memory when they make their debut on what will be the sport's grandest stage.
“Sarah, in many ways, defines the sport,” Judge said last week. “She's been involved since the very, very early days as one of the first people to bring skis into the pipe. She's also been very dedicated in trying to define her sport but not define herself by winning. For her, it's been about making herself the best she can be rather than comparing herself to other people.”
Burke's death continues a sad string of stories involving some of the best-known athletes in the wintertime action-sports world. Pearce's injury — he has since recovered and is back to riding on snow — was a jarring reminder of the dangers posed to these athletes who often market themselves as devil-may-care thrillseekers but know they make their living in a far more serious, and dangerous, profession.
Burke's death also is sure to re-ignite the debate over safety on the halfpipe.