Sarah Burke

On Thursday, January 12th, the world of Freestyle skiing was changed forever when its icon, Sarah Burke died at the young age of 29 in the hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah after sustaining serious injuries in a skiing accident on Tuesday, Jan. 10.  The tragedy occured during a training run in the superpipe at a personal sponsor event at the Park City Mountain resort.   As the result of a fall after completing a jump, she suffered a ruptured vertebral artery, one of the four major arteries supplying blood to the brain. This caused her to go into cardiac arrest. 

She was rushed to hospital where she was put on life support and therapeutic hypothermia was initiated to protect her brain.  She underwent surgery to repair the torn artery on Wednesday, January 11th and was in a medically induced coma until she died the following day.  Sarah had sustained irreversible brain damage which resulted in her heart stopping.  She died surrounded by her loved ones.  She leaves behind her husband and fellow skier, Rory Bushfield. 

At her request, Sarah’s organs and tissues were donated to save the lives of others.  Canada’s women’s soccer team observed a moment of silence for Sarah before they played Haiti in an Olympic qualifying match in Vancouver on Thursday night.

I watched the news and was touched when I saw a clip of Sarah’s wedding to Rory.  She was radiant.  The pair looked so happy.  They were young and in love and they believed that they had a wonderful future ahead of them.  One tragic fall changed everything.  Dreams were shattered and a family has suffered a great loss.  And those who knew Sarah will miss her terribly. 

Alpine Canada president Max Gartner issued the following statement on Thursday:  “We are very saddened to learn of Sarah’s passing. On behalf of Alpine Canada, I’d like to extend our sincere sympathies to the family and friends of Sarah and to the freestyle community. The loss of such a great athlete is a tragedy for the entire ski and sport community.”

Sarah was a pioneer of the superpipe event. She was a four-time Winter X Games gold medalist, and won the world championship in the halfpipe in 2005.  She successfully lobbied the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to have the event added to the Olympic program for the 2014 Winter Olympics. She was considered a medal favourite in the event.

Sarah was also a four-time Winter X Games gold medalist in freestyle skiing.  She was the first woman ever to land a jump with 1080-degree rotation in competition.  She won ESPN’s 2001 Award for female skier of the year and was voted 2007’s Best Female Action Sports Athlete at the ESPY awards.

Notes to Women salutes and mourns this remarkable young woman and pioneer of her generation who fought fiercely for the sport she loved and believed in.   She will be remembered at the first ever superpipe event at the 2014 Winter Olympics.  Our thoughts and our prayers are with her husband, Rory, her parents, Jan and Gordon and her sister, Anna. 

A website for donations was set up by Sarah’s agent Michael Spencer, who set a fundraising goal of $550,000 for medical costs and “related expenses.” Thankfully, the family will not have to worry about the financial costs related to Sarah’s care due to the donations that have been pouring in.  In a statement issued through the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association, further contributions will be used to establish a foundation to “honor Sarah’s legacy and promote the ideals she valued and embodied.” If you would like to make donations in Sarah’s name, you may do so at http://www.giveforward.com/sarahburke

If you have memories or messages you would like to share, you may do so at http://sarahburkeski.com/remembering-sarah/.

Sources:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarah_Burke; http://www.cbc.ca/sports/skiing/story/2012/01/19/sp-sarah-burke-obit.html; http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/TopStories/20120120/sarah-burke-medical-bills-legacy-120120/#ixzz1kJL55gvl

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