Sarah Burke

  • Born: September 3, 1982
  • Died: January 19, 2012
  • Location: Whistler, British Columbia

Tribute


In this Jan. 23, 2009 file photo, Sarah Burke, of Canada, holds her gold metal after winning the Women's Superpipe event at Winter X Games 13 at Buttermilk Ski Area, near Aspen, Colo.

Canadian freestyle skier dead at 29

EDDIE PELLS, The Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Sarah Burke was an X Games star with a grass-roots mentality — a daredevil superpipe skier who understood the risks inherent to her sport and the debt she owed to it for her success on the slopes.

The pioneering Canadian freestyler, who helped get superpipe accepted into the Olympics, died Thursday after a Jan. 10 crash during a training run in Park City, Utah.

Burke, who lived near Whistler, in British Columbia, was 29.

"Sarah was the one who, in a very positive way, stood in the face of adversity and asked, 'Why not?'" said Peter Judge, the CEO of Canada's freestyle team. "What she would have wanted was for her teammates and others in her sport to stand up and also say, 'Why not?' To benefit from the significant opportunities available to them, being able to compete in the Olympics and the X Games. Those were the things she wanted and cherished and fought for."

A four-time Winter X Games champion, Burke crashed on the same halfpipe where snowboarder Kevin Pearce sustained a traumatic brain injury during a training accident on Dec. 31, 2009.

Tests revealed she sustained "irreversible damage to her brain due to lack of oxygen and blood after cardiac arrest," according to a statement released by her publicist, Nicole Wool, on behalf of the family.

She said Burke's organs and tissues were donated, as the skier had requested before the accident.

"The family expresses their heartfelt gratitude for the international outpouring of support they have received from all the people Sarah touched," the statement said.

Judge said the accident did not come on a risky trick, but rather, a simple 540-degree jump that Burke usually landed routinely.

"It was more the freak nature of how she landed," he said. "The angle of how she hit must have been exactly the right way, to create a very bizarre circumstance."

Burke will be remembered as much for the hardware she collected as the legacy she left for women in superpipe skiing, a sister sport to the more popular snowboarding brand that has turned Shaun White, Hannah Teter and others into stars.

Aware of the big role the Olympics played in pushing the Whites of the world from the fringes into the mainstream, Burke lobbied to add superpipe skiing to the Winter Games program, noting that no new infrastructure would be needed.

Her arguments won over Olympic officials, and the discipline will debut in two years in Russia, where Burke likely would have been a favorite for the gold medal.

She was, Judge said, as committed to mentoring up-and-coming competitors and giving clinics as performing at the top levels.

"She was a kind person who was easygoing and approachable," Judge said. "There was no pretense about her."

News of Burke's death spread quickly through the action-sports world, where the Winter X Games are set to start next week in Aspen, Colo., without one of their biggest and most-beloved stars.

"She's probably one of the nicest people I've known in my life, and that's about the only thing I have to say about it," said American superpipe skier Simon Dumont, a multiple X Games medalist.

Jeremy Forster, the program director for U.S. Freeskiing and U.S. Snowboarding, said freeskiers would remember Burke "first, as a friend, and then as a competitor who constantly inspired them to do greater things."

"She was a leader in her sport, and it's a huge loss for the freeskiing community," Forster said.

"I am eternally indebted to Sarah for what she has done for this sport," said American superpipe skier Jen Hudak. "Every turn I ever make will be for her."

A moment of silence for Burke was observed before Canada's women's soccer team played Haiti in an Olympic qualifying match in Vancouver on Thursday night.

Burke's death is sure to re-ignite the debate over safety on the halfpipe.

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.

The sport's leaders defend the record, saying mandatory helmets and air bags used on the sides of pipes during practice and better pipe-building technology has made this a safer sport, even though the walls of the pipes have risen significantly over the past decade. They now stand at 22 feet high.

Some of the movement to the halfpipe decades ago came because racing down the mountain, the way they do in snowboardcross and skicross, was considered even more dangerous — the conditions more unpredictable and the athletes less concerned with each other's safety.

But there are few consistent, hard-and-fast guidelines when it comes to limiting the difficulty of the tricks in the halfpipe, and as the money and fame available in the sport grew, so did the tricks. In 2010, snowboarding pioneer Jake Burton told The Associated Press that much of this was self-policed by athletes who knew where to draw the line.

"If the sport got to the point where halfpipe riding became really dangerous, I think riders would do something about it," Burton said. "It wouldn't be cool anymore."

His opinion is shared by many.

"From a safety perspective, it's just very difficult to really understand if there was anything that could've been done any differently to make it any safer," Judge said.

In 2009, Burke broke a vertebra in her back after landing awkwardly while competing in slopestyle at the X Games. It was her lobbying that helped get the X Games to include women's slopestyle — where riders shoot down the mountain and over "features" including bumps and rails.

It wasn't her best event, but she felt compelled to compete because she pushed for it. She came to terms with her injury quickly.

"I've been doing this for long time, 11 years," she said in a 2010 interview. "I've been very lucky with the injuries I've had. It's part of the game. Everybody gets hurt. Looking back on it, I'd probably do the exact same thing again."

She returned a year after that injury and kept going at the highest level, trying the toughest tricks and winning the biggest prizes.

A native of Midland, Ontario, Burke won the ESPY in 2007 as female action sports athlete of the year.

In 2010, she married another freestyle skier, Rory Bushfield, and they were headliners in a documentary film project on the Ski Channel called "Winter."

In her interview with AP two years ago, Burke reflected on the niche she'd carved out in the action-sports world.

"I think we're all doing this, first off, because we love it and want to be the best," she said. "But I also think it would've been a great opportunity, huge for myself and for skiing and for everyone, if we could've gotten into the (Vancouver) Olympics. It's sad. I mean, I'm super lucky to be where I am, but that would've been pretty awesome."

A little more than a year later, with Burke's prodding, her sport was voted in for the next Winter Games.

___

AP National Writer Eddie Pells contributed to this story from Denver.


Condolence & Memory Journal

great post. just yesterday, i leearnd of a 48 yr old man from my church who passed away in his sleep sunday night from a ruptured aorta. it was totally unexpected. he had run 9 miles over the weekend! now, the lives of his wife and two kids are totally turned upside down. it's definitely a lesson in stopping to appreciate and love those around you!hang in there!

Posted by Mauro - LGHdJRGz9eFI, WV - rPdfGKlBZx   February 20, 2015

Leave a condolence or a memory.You were the best. I hope your always remembers god bless you

Posted by Joseph o hill - Corpus Christi - Fan   January 03, 2015

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To Sarah Burke,
It's two years since you've been gone. I wish you were stiil alive to ski in the 2014 winter olympics. I will always remember you Miss Burke. Lisa Weiner

Posted by Lisa Weiner - Brooklyn, NY - fan   June 08, 2014

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GOD bless the family of the late Sarah Burke

Posted by Ruby    February 09, 2012

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Beauty in Flight and Angel now who keeps us in sight!

Posted by Diane B. - sports fan   February 08, 2012

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January 19th was a sad day in the snow comunnity,it hit us all pretty hard.
I honestly still can't believe this has happened.
You will be truly truly missed and every run will be dedicated to you.

shred in peace Sarah!
We love you!

Posted by Johnny Stephenson - friend   January 30, 2012

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Sarah....

I never believe human life can be this much shorter..but life can be too..we can die young but Sarah was great person we are gonna misses you everyday...

Posted by Sunil Kantha Fernando - Fan   January 30, 2012

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Why do the good die young?

Posted by Robbyn Smith    January 28, 2012

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Sarah is a awesome skier I always watched her on the winter x games and other times !!! God bless I will pray for her

Posted by Ashton - I am a big fan   January 27, 2012

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My best wishes to the family and may god be with you all.

Posted by Andrew Rizzo Sr.    January 27, 2012

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Please rest in peace. You will be truley missed.

J.Mitchell

Posted by Janet Mitchell    January 26, 2012

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Canada lost a true champion and role model who will truly be missed. Sarah not only gave so much in life but in her far too early death she is still giving. Sarah gave the ultimate gift so others could live on. That is a true champion. I hope that Sarah's legacy lives on in all of us and that we all try to live our lives like Sarah did. May God bless Rory and Sarah's family in this most difficult time.
Lori (Vancouver)

Posted by Lori - fellow skier   January 26, 2012

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My thoughts are with Sarah and Rory and their family since the day I have heard of this tragic accident! Sarah showed us again that we only have THIS moment and that is all we have. Yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never come. Live every moment like it is your last. Sarah's kindness was outstanding and inspiring! Thank you for spreading so much love! Sarah you will be missed but never forgotten! RIP!

Posted by Elke - fan   January 26, 2012

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RIP Sara

Posted by Deborah - fan   January 25, 2012

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Sarah was a person that knew what she wanted in life. There was nothing going to stop her and she fought to get the sport into the olympics. In 2014 as we watch the womens skiing we will all be thinking of you. It is so sad that she passed at a very young age but her memory will live on forever. The Town of Midland lost one great person, and god gained a perfect angel.

Posted by Kendra Sutton - Sarah was afriend of my children   January 25, 2012

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My daughter was with you in Ski Patrol on that Tuesday afternoon in Park City. She was saddened to here of the accident and said many a private prayer for Sarah both there in the Ski Patrol office and avery day since. My family is saddened by this loss and pray for that her grace is laid upon her family during this grieving time.

Posted by Martha    January 24, 2012

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Rest in Peace

Posted by Jeanne    January 24, 2012

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MAY GOD KEEP YOU IN HIS CARE. YOU WERE SUCH AN INSPIRATION TO EVERYONE.

Posted by PATRICIA FITTRO    January 24, 2012

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I am truly sorry for your loss. May god bless and keep you,give you the strength thru this very tough time.I will keep you in my prayers.

Posted by lisa hawkins - a fan   January 23, 2012

I really couldn't be more proud to be a good friend of Sarahs. We lived far apart from one another but always kept in touch and remained great friends. I have gone days, weeks, even months without seeing her in the past but knowing I will now have to go a lifetime without seeing her tears me apart inside and out. I have lost more close friends than anyone should ever have to but few have touched my heart in the same way Sarah's passing has. She was a bit older than me and even though the age difference never felt awkward in our friendship I always looked up to her as almost a big sister i never had. I idolized her and will always aspire to be more like her.

Posted by Jess Mastrella - Grass Valley, CA - close friend   January 23, 2012

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Rest In Peace...

Posted by Jill Quinn    January 23, 2012

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God bless and give you strength at this difficult time.

Posted by Sisa Vanelli - fan   January 23, 2012

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The loss of Sarah has touched my heart., besides being a skier, I lost my 25 year old son unexpectedly, 6 years ago. To her family, the pain is unbearable, first daily, then weekly, and slowly it spreads out to those special holidays, birthdays...Not understanding why so early.But you find comfort in knowing that when time comes for you to pass on in your life, your loved one will be there to greet you, and your not afraid anymore., the chain of your family will be connected again. Cherish the joy that was brought to you.

Posted by v. lanegan - a mother   January 23, 2012

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GOD BLESS YOU AND YOUR FAMILY.

Posted by JOSEPHAGUZMAN    January 23, 2012

I just saw this print and I had to give my condolence to the family of this young lady taken so early in life! My niece husband loss his brother on MLK Day, whom was buried yesterday! He also was a achiever & an wonderful athele(sorry for the misspelling) - (age 17). So I truly understand some of the grief. My mother told me this with my niece & her husband are still in deep grieving! God Mainly Want The Best! So at least the family should be reassured, if she loved the Lord - She's At Rest With The Best! Don't Cry for her; she can't hear or see your sorrow. Do cry for yourself which is a process before you'll get better! God Bless Her Family - My Heart Goes Out To Ones That Are In Mourning From Their Loss!

Posted by jene - Milwaukee, WI - none   January 22, 2012

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Such a sad loss but she lived doing what she loved and was loved by many

Posted by roberta - proud canadian   January 22, 2012

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I mourn and cry with the rest of the world for the loss of such a talented freestyle skier. My condolences to her family, friends and skiing athletes/coaches.

Posted by Karen Elmhirst - Canadian fan   January 21, 2012

To the family of Sarah, we are so very sorry for your loss but please find joy in knowing that through the selfless act of Sarah being an organ and tissue donor she continues to live through others. I wish you peace in your hearts and Gods love at this sad and tragic time.

Posted by J.Kincaid    January 21, 2012

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She will be missed

Posted by scot Henru - friend of a friend   January 21, 2012

Lost so soon. May God help your l oved ones through this hard time. Never forgotten. RIP

Posted by ace - gr, CA - fan   January 21, 2012

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Rest in peace Sara!

Posted by Bahar - A fan   January 21, 2012

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There were few who could even begin to compare to her talent and the many times she gave electricity to her style of skiing and sport in general. Hard to replace such an angel of a talented individual
A true angel now in the heavens Prayers to her family and husband till you see her again

Posted by Deborah Jackson - Fan and admirer   January 21, 2012

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Your Light Will Shine Forever Sarah.
Rest In Peace.

Posted by Leaona N - fan   January 21, 2012

I never met Sarah but truly feel for her family, I lost my 30 yr old son in 09 from TBI.
It is so hard as a parent to lose a child & want you to know if you need to talk email me, this is a long & rough journey & only those who "know" it will relate to just how you feel.

Posted by mary menzel - Grand Rapids, MI - grieving Mom   January 21, 2012

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An inspiration to the girls, AND the boys of the sport. I hope she's still skiing up there. You'll be missed Sarah

Posted by Paul Burrill - Fan   January 21, 2012

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Gone to soon....

Posted by anne - a fan forever   January 20, 2012

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Such a sad day for the skiing world. Sarah inspired to put down my snowboard after 12 years and pick up ski's instead. she made me want to be great. She will be so missed, especially here in Aspen as we so loved watching her at X games. My thoughts and prayers are with all her family and especially Rory. May god find a special place for her in heaven - for she is and will always be an angel in the powder. xx

Posted by Arabella Beavers - fan   January 20, 2012

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Rest In Peace Sarah.

Posted by Jodie Towsky - admirer   January 20, 2012

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You will be missed by many, but not forgotten.

Posted by Don McAskin - Fan   January 20, 2012

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a light so bright...a passion so strong...too soon...too young...too sad.

Posted by b.hardy - a mom   January 20, 2012

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Sarah Sarah Sarah! You will forever be in all of our hearts! God willing your family will find the strength to continue in your earthly absence. God Bless and rest in peace! The Chamberlain's, UT

Posted by Victoria Chamberlain    January 20, 2012

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All my thoughts are with her family and friends.

Posted by Magalie Dube - fan   January 20, 2012

sooo sad ....what a tragic loss, prayers to ur family to find comfort at this hard time.

Posted by marilyn    January 20, 2012

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Have watched your skiing efforts and know you have been a great inspiration to many and will be greatly missed. Your light will always shine.

Condolences to family and friends.

Posted by Connie Scranton - Admirer   January 20, 2012

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Sarah- I met you in Park City and at many ski events. You inspired a lot of people. My sympathy to all your family and close friends. You will be missed by many!! RIP

Posted by Kim - acquaintance   January 20, 2012

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may you be at peace now in God's home. My heart goes out to your family for thier loss of a beautiful and talented young woman.

Posted by Gen - fan   January 20, 2012

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it is with great sadness we lose such an icon skier it is such a great loss for the family and canada. i hope you find comfort in the many accomplishments sara has achieved and may she rest in peace with the lord. we will never forget you

Posted by kimberly maeck - fan   January 20, 2012

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RIP Sarah. You will be missed by so many. You made our country proud. My heart goes out to your family at this difficult time.

Posted by Tami Herrington Dube    January 20, 2012

SARAH was beautiful - a graceful athlete gliding across the snows; She achieved fame, honors and was an accomlished person. However, in death - SARAH BURKE is elevated to a far greater level of admiration. She left instructions - in the event of her demise - for her organs to be transplanted. Now, at the end-of-her-time, she has extended and improved the lives of many others. THIS TRANSFORMS HER INTO A MAGNIFICENT, COMPASSIONATE ANGEL.

Posted by Audrey Burtrum-Stanley - AR   January 20, 2012

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i remember sarah as to be the most amazing freeskier and woman i ahve ever seen and known

Posted by darian young - fan and friend   January 20, 2012

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What a sin
very sorry to hear of Sarah's death. A great athelete, ambassador, and canadian.
Paul MacDougall
Sydney, NS

Posted by paul macdougall    January 20, 2012

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Too soon to leave us.

Posted by Linda Trotter    January 20, 2012

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Thinking of you and your family and friends

Posted by Janette Kirch    January 20, 2012

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May you rest in peace Sarah.

Posted by betty yetman    January 20, 2012

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To Sarah's husband, family and friends: May GOD bless you in this moment of loss. It is wonderful and yet sad that her life was cut short practicing the sport that she loved the most. Unfortunately her purpose on this earth is complete and GOD has called her to be at HIS side. Everything that she accomplished in her sport will live on forever and all the women who will come after her will have Sarah to thank. And from wherever she is now may her spirit live on in everyone whom she touched and helped. GOD bless you Sarah and you will be missed forever. Until we all meet again.

Posted by Luz Rico    January 20, 2012

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RIP SARHA YOU MADE THE WORLD A LITTLE BIT BETTER

Posted by Mike wolfe - FAN   January 20, 2012

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To Family and Friends,

We are so sorry for your loss, your Angel is sking in the clouds, watching over all of us.

Linda and JJ

Posted by Linda    January 20, 2012

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May God be your comfort thru this troubling time.

Posted by Neatha McClain - none   January 20, 2012

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here`s to a great Canadian freestyle skier ,one we shell never forget.she always had a smile on her face and gave freindship to anyone she met,,The Taylor family

Posted by Elton Taylor    January 20, 2012

How very sad such a rising star left this earth so early.May God bless and keep you Sarah. God bless her husband Rory.

Posted by Mark Duke - Saint John NB - Fan   January 20, 2012

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My prayers for the family.

Posted by elizabeth trendt - fan   January 20, 2012

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RIP, Sarah. A hero to so many

Posted by Diane Renfree    January 20, 2012


Default Album

In this Jan. 23, 2009 file photo, Sarah Burke, of Canada, holds her gold metal after winning the Women's Superpipe event at Winter X Games 13 at Buttermilk Ski Area, near Aspen, Colo.
In this March 12, 2008 file photo, Sarah Burke of Canada is airborne as she competes in the women's halfpipe freestyle event at the World Cup finals in Valmalenco, Italy.
In this March 12, 2008, file photo, Sarah Burke, of Canada, celebrates on the podium after winning the women's halfpipe freestyle title at the World Cup finals in Valmalenco, Italy.
In a Jan. 28, 2010, file photo, Sarah Burke, of Canada, reacts after failing to place in the top-three finishers in the slopestyle skiing women's final at the Winter X Games at Buttermilk Mountain outside Aspen, Colo.
SuperPipe skier, Sarah Burke of Canada looks on during a news conference at the Winter X Games on Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009. Burke will be competing in the Skiers SuperPipe at this weekends competition.
Sarah Burke of Canada is airborne on her way to win the women's halfpipe freestyle title at the World Cup finals in Valmalenco, Italy, Wednesday, March 12, 2008