Tragically, Canadian Sarah Burke, a pioneer in women's freeskiing, died Thursday January 19, 2012 from crash-related injuries, during a training run at the bottom of the superpipe in Utah.
She was 29 years old.
Admittedly, I knew very little about Sarah Burke, as a person, prior to the last few months. I knew her as an athlete. An athlete who was instrumental in creating change and awareness for women's freeskiing, a four-time Winter X Games Gold champion, and the person who single handedly lobbied the Olympic Committee to include superpipe skiing as an officially recognized discipline. Her efforts proved successful. Athletes will compete in superpipe skiing in its debut during the Sochi Games in 2014.
Last month I attended the Winter movie premiere by The Ski Channel. The movie is a montage of stories about life in the mountains, and the individuals that embrace their own dreams through winter sports. One of the stories in the movie was about Sarah Burke and her husband Rory Bushfield. Two young adults, with a passion for skiing, and new found love.
Sarah and Rory's story, for me, seemed to be the highlight of the film – their approachable genuineness, their happiness with life, their strength in pursuing their dreams. I had the pleasure of meeting Rory at the premiere, a gentle, unassuming young man thrilled with the opportunity to meet fans and be a part of a movie. I am sure just an extension of his daily approach to life.
Sarah did not make the premiere that night, although prior to the film, during interviews with the athletes, she was mentioned and spoken very highly of, during the introduction of Rory. There seemed to be an equally shared enthusiasm from all the athletes when Sarah was mentioned. It was recognizable that Sarah was somebody special for all of the lives she touched.
In the wake of Sarah's death her legacy has been quickly visible. Her nation of Canada mourns. The athletes of winter sports have poured out their support for Rory and Sarah's family. The media has shown nothing but warm and wonderful stories remembering Sarah's life. And her fans quickly raised, to date, $254,00 for the more than $200,000 needed in medical bills.
Perhaps the most poignant event, and testimony to Sarah's life and legacy, will be the debut of superpipe skiing in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. An event that would not take place if it were not for the efforts of Sarah.
For me, Sarah's life has provided simple yet powerful messages: pursue your passion, live your life, create change, be genuine, and life truly is fragile… so Carpe Diem, and always, always, enjoy the ride.
God Speed Sarah.