Sarah Burke’s ashes spread in Sochi halfpipe
PHOTO: AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File2010 file photo of Canadian skier Sarah Burke, who died in a training accident in 2012. Olympic athletes in Sochi have been banned from wearing helmet stickers remembering her.
Feb 22, 2014 - 8:09 AM EST
Last Updated: Feb 22, 2014 - 8:36 AM EST
SOCHI, Russia — Trennon Paynter called it a “stealth mission.”
After training had begun for the Olympic women’s halfpipe, but before the competition, the Canadian freestyle ski coach waited for quiet moment, hiked a little ways down the course, and removed a cylindrical container from its tooled leather case.
In it were the ashes of Sarah Burke, the Canadian pioneer who led the effort to get the women’s X-Games sport into the Olympics but who died in a January 2012 training accident before she could see her dream realized.
Paynter spread some of her ashes on the halfpipe course, unbeknownst to Olympic officials, and so — in essence — the entire competition was skied over the remains of the woman whose memory the International Olympic Committee had refused to honour in any official way.
They’ve honoured her now, like it or not.
Slopestyle gold and bronze medallists remember Sarah Burke
“Well, honestly I’ve known for almost a couple of years now that these Games, for us especially as a team, were really going to revolve around Sarah’s memory,” said Paynter.
“Myself and Rory (Bushfield), Sarah’s husband and one of my closest friends, we discussed it a long time ago that we wanted to bring Sarah here and decided we would bring some of her ashes here and spread them around the event, and try to get some in the pipe, if we could pull it off.”
The actual operation, he said, was where the stealth was involved.
“It was, for one, a very sort of private personal moment so we didn’t want to make any noise about it in advance. It’s probably not entirely following all the rules, but it was something we were going to make happen, regardless,” said Paynter. “And I know that we’re certainly not alone (as Canadians) in feeling that the debut of ski halfpipe at the Olympics was so much about Sarah. Every other competitor from every other nation in halfpipe skiing feels the same.”
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, and they even got to ski the halfpipe.
“The first day of training. I carried her with me and managed to poach a couple of pipe laps, and I know Sarah wanted to get a couple of hits in the Olympic pipe, so she got those, which felt really nice,” said Paynter.
“And then I just found the quietest moment that I could sneak in there, and it was a beautiful day, and I hiked down the pipe and scattered some and afterward I went to the very top of the mountain on the gondola, the highest point I could find, and scattered some there as well. So I feel kind of good about knowing that Sarah was … she was all over these Olympics, in our hearts and quite literally, too.”
Burke, who lived near Whistler, B.C., died aged 29, nine days after suffering a head injury in a fall in Park City, Utah. A four-time X-Games champion, she likely would have been favoured to win the gold medal in Sochi.
The Canadian Olympic Committee supplied the cylinder in which her ashes were carried to Russia.
“We made a leather carrying case for it, we got her name on it, and a little poem I wrote about Sarah on it, and a bunch of snowflakes, so it was pretty nice,” Paynter said.
Early in the Games, the IOC said it would not allow the competitors to wear stickers or armbands honouring Burke’s memory, but Paynter said “she was honoured here regardless. The sticker thing, for us, was really no big deal at all. We knew the way the protocol worked here, we’ve known for a couple of years that we wouldn’t be wearing stickers here.
“It didn’t take away in the slightest how much we all felt we were honouring Sarah in this event. A sticker’s a little piece of vinyl. What we carry with us from Sarah was probably 10 times more evident here than at events where we do have stickers. This event, I feel, had Sarah at the core of it.”
Anyway, he said, Sarah Burke’s has been a well-travelled soul since she passed away, and may continue to be.
“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.
Asked if the container was now empty, he said “not entirely. But very close. But it’s not … it feels a little strange talking about it … it wasn’t all of Sarah’s ashes that we brought here. There’s some kind of all around the world, and she’ll be continuing to travel around the world, I think for some time to come.”
Quote: Originally Posted by Walter
Everyone is special. Yawn.
Me, I'm not 'special' but you, Walter........you are very special.......or maybe precious is a better description.
I simply fail to see why both Olympics are not supported equally. Isn't that part of what the Olympic spirit is all about? We have two Team Canada's and as far as I am concerned neither should receive any less attention than the other.
Quote: Originally Posted by coldstream
It was a great Olympics.. despite all the dire warnings of terrorism and monumental bungling.. everything went off like (minutely off kilter) clockwork.
Great venues, sporting competition, friendly atmosphere despite all the security. I really liked the classical themes of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, which reverses some of the tendency to debauches.. especially in the Closing Ceremonies.. in recent Olympics (including our own).
Officially Canada came in 3rd behind Russia and Norway and ahead of the U.S. using Gold Medals as measure (which i think is fair). But Norway took that count almost exclusively from one sport, Nordic Skiing. There were some controversies..but no gripes.. and all of the big countries wanted that Men's Hockey Gold as the crown jewel in their medal tally. It was a great Olympics for Canada after the disappointments of London.
If i had to design a poster of the Canadian experience at Sochi.. i'd put Coach Babcock front and centre as a man of great skill, patience, class and character in the hottest seat in Canada.
Well done to ALL our Canadian athletes.. good hunting to our Para-Olympians.
I tried to catch every interview the media had with Mike during the Olympics after I saw an early one where he spoke with such passion and articulation about the team, what the games meant to them and to Canada, and how he was preparing the guys to play. He never failed to deliver great interviews all throughout the tourney. I saw his last one in Sochi where the media asked him to explain the low scoring during the games. To paraphrase Mike who was staring down the journalist, " Is anyone talking about the scoring today?" followed quickly by "Is anyone talking about the Gold Medal? Enough said.".......... and he got up and walked away. Rock on Mike.