SALT LAKE CITY – Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke died Thursday, nine days after crashing at the bottom of the superpipe during a training run in Utah.
Burke, who lived near Whistler in British Columbia, was 29. She was injured Jan. 10 while training at a personal sponsor event at the Park City Mountain resort.
Tests revealed Burke suffered “irreversible damage to her brain due to lack of oxygen and blood after cardiac arrest,” according to a statement released by Burke’s publicist on behalf of her family.
A four-time Winter X Games champion, Burke crashed on the same halfpipe where snowboarder Kevin Pearce suffered a traumatic brain injury during a training accident on Dec. 31, 2009.
As a result of her fall, Burke tore her vertebral artery, which led to severe bleeding on the brain, causing her to go into cardiac arrest on the scene, where CPR was performed, according to the statement by publicist Nicole Wool.
Wool said Burke’s organs and tissues were donated per her wishes.
Burke was the best-known athlete in her sport and will be remembered for the legacy she left for women in freestyle skiing.
She set the standard for skiing in the superpipe, a sister sport to the more popular snowboarding brand that has turned Shaun White, Hannah Teter and others into stars of the sport.
Seeing what a big role the Olympics has played in pushing the Whites of the world from the fringes into the mainstream, Burke lobbied to add superpipe skiing to the Olympic program, using the argument that no new infrastructure would be needed – the pipe was already built – and the Olympics could get twice the bang for their buck.
She won over the Olympic bigwigs, and the discipline will debut at the Sochi Games in 2014.
Burke, who was favored to win a fifth X Games title later this month, would have been a favorite for the gold medal in Sochi, as well.
Instead, sadly, the competitors will have to toast to her memory when they make their debut on what will be the sport’s grandest stage.