Sarah Burke's dad dismisses tribute ban in Sochi: 'It's just a sticker'
Marlene Leung, CTVNews.ca
Published Wednesday, February 12, 2014 11:17AM EST
When the first-ever Olympic women's halfpipe skiing event gets underway in Sochi next week, the family of the late freestyle skiing star Sarah Burke will be watching proudly from the stands.
Before her death in 2012, Sarah was a huge advocate for having that event, as well as women's slopestyle skiing, included in the Winter Olympics.
Her father, Gord Burke, said he'll be thinking about his daughter when he watches the inaugural halfpipe competition in Sochi next Thursday.
"I think I'm just going to be very proud and so many of her friends and my friends are competing there," he told CTV's Canada AM. "I'm just going to be happy to be there cheering everybody on."
Sarah, a four-time Winter X Games gold medallist and the 2005 halfpipe world champion, died in January 2012 after a training accident in Utah. She was 29 years old at the time. Before her death she was widely considered a top contender to compete at the Sochi Games.
It was her passion for the sport and easy way of talking to others that helped bring the events to the Olympics, Burke said.
"I think it was just a passion for life… She just came across with such kindness and friendship, and before you knew it she probably had put in a few words in the right direction for what she believed in," he said.
"When you really see what she has accomplished in her 29 years – it was amazing. It surprises me every day. I learn a little bit more about myself and her every day."
Sarah's legacy was honoured Tuesday at the Olympics, when Ontario native Dara Howell dedicated her gold medal to the late skiing star. Howell took the top spot in the women's ski slopestyle event. Fellow teammate Kim Lamarre won bronze.
Burke said he was touched by the gesture.
"It was absolutely beautiful, I thought. What a beautiful girl to manage to pull that off and say those words right at the beginning. It was so sweet," he said.
Howell's dedication comes on the heels of a decision by the International Olympic Committee that athletes in Sochi will not be able to wear stickers on their helmets commemorating Sarah and her contribution to sport.
The IOC upheld its ban on the stickers Monday, saying that they go against its Olympic Charter rules, which ban any messages that may appear on the athletes, their equipment or clothing.
The IOC decision was slammed by a number of athletes from around the world, including Australian snowboarder Torah Bright, who said Sarah continues to inspire her.
Burke said that the IOC ban on the stickers won't diminish his daughter's accomplishments.
"The stickers have been around since Sarah had her accident… it's not some type of new statement, it's just that everybody loved her and would like to remember her," he said. "But the main thing is it's just a sticker. She's going to be in everybody's heart and I don't think a decision like that really means anything."