Skiing pioneer Burke remembered in Whistler service
Published Wednesday, April 11, 2012 6:52AM EDT
WHISTLER, B.C. - Admirers of Sarah Burke gathered in Whistler Village on Tuesday night to bid a sad farewell to the late freeskiing pioneer.
Burke, who was born in Ontario and lived in Squamish, passed away in January, after a fall while training in the Superpipe at Park City, Utah. The 29-year-old sustained severe irreversible brain damage due to lack of oxygen and blood when one of the arteries to her brain ruptured.
The public memorial service was delayed until near the end of the ski season so freeskiers around the world could attend and pay their respects. Family, friends and fellow athletes held a private memorial on the Blackcomb Mountain earlier in the day at the halfpipe, a place Burke loved best.
"Today in the halfpipe it was unbelievable how much Sarah's memory has pulled us all together," said Trennan Paynter, coach of the Canadian freestyle halfpipe team. "Things will never be the same without her but I can tell you that when we walk into the Sochi Olympic stadium, Sarah is going to be the one leading the team."
A normally raucous Whistler crowd fell silent while watching images and videos of the multiple X Games gold medalist. Fellow athletes, friends and family members shared memories of Burke's accomplishments in sport and life. With tears, laughter and a lot of noise, Whistler brought the memory of a local athlete back home.
Burke is celebrated as one of the most influential athletes in winter sport.
Her success was unparalleled in the sport of freeskiing.
Burke was the first woman to land a 720, then a 900, then a 1080-degree spin in competition. She was also instrumental in helping to get her sport into the Olympics for 2014 in Sochi, Russia.