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Sarah Burke

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Sarah Burke

Sarah Burke
Burke in 2010
Personal information
Birth name Sarah Jean Burke
Born (1982-09-03)September 3, 1982
Barrie, Ontario, Canada
Died January 19, 2012(2012-01-19) (aged 29)
Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.
Spouse(s) Rory Bushfield (2010-2012; her death)
Website .comsarahburke
Country  Canada

Sarah Jean Burke[1] (September 3, 1982 – January 19, 2012) was a Canadian freestyle skier who was a pioneer of the superpipe event.[2][3] She was a four-time Winter X Games gold medallist, 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. Burke died following a training accident in Utah.

Early life

Burke was born in Barrie, Ontario, to Jan Phelan and Gordon Burke, both artists.[4] She and her sister, Anna Phelan,[5] grew up in Midland[6] and attended Midland Secondary School.[7]

Skiing career

As a teenage mogul skier, Burke would often sneak onto the Snowboard halfpipe at the end of the day.[6] She was considered a pioneer in the sport of superpipe skiing, along with American Kristi Leskinen. The pair were frequent competitors, and often against male skiers.[8][9]

Burke won first place in the 2001 US Freeskiing Open in the half-pipe event and finished second in slopestyle. She and Leskinen were the only women who competed against the men. In 2004, Burke lobbied ESPN to include a division for women skiers at its Winter X Games. In 2005, ESPN added women's freeskiing to the X-Games.[10]

When half-pipe made its debut at the 2005 FIS Freestyle World Ski Championships, she emerged as the first world champion.[11] Burke is also a four-time Winter X Games gold medallist in freestyle skiing.[12][13] She was the first woman ever to land a jump with 1080-degree rotation in competition.[14]

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.[15]

She regularly participated in skiing films, including Propaganda, in which she showcased her skills by sliding huge rainbow rails, spinning a huge 540 in the pipe and throwing back-flips.[16]

Burke was a known promoter of the superpipe skiing event, working to have it added to the Olympic program. She failed to have the event added in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, but successfully lobbied the International Olympic Committee to have the event added for the 2014 Sochi Games.[6] Two years ahead of the games, she was considered a potential favourite for the gold medal in Sochi.[17]

Personal life

Burke met freeskier Rory Bushfield when she was 14 at a ski camp in Whistler, British Columbia.[18] On September 25, 2010, she married Bushfield in Pemberton, British Columbia, with pro skier Luke Van Valin officiating the wedding.[4][19] She and Bushfield resided in Squamish, British Columbia.[20]

Accident and death

On January 10, 2012, Burke was seriously injured while training on the Park City Mountain Resort Eagle superpipe in [6] Because the event at which she fell was unsanctioned and hosted by Burke's sponsor Monster Energy, Burke was not covered under the insurance policy that applied to her when she competed for the Canada Freestyle Ski Association. The day after her death, Burke's agent established a website to raise $550,000 to help pay her estimated $200,000 hospital costs and establish "a foundation to honour Sarah's legacy and promote the ideals she valued and embodied".[26] On February 23, 2014, Sarah's ashes were spread in the mountains over Sochi, Russia, during the 2014 Olympic Games. Her former coach, Trennon Paynter, spread them on the highest point at Rosa Khutor complex, and in the halfpipe.


On June 12, 2012, the Canadian Olympic Committee announced that Burke was inducted into the 2012 Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame for her role in advocating for ski halfpipe's inclusion in the Olympic program.[27][28]

In February 2014, Canada Post produced commemorative stamps honouring Burke, curler Sandra Schmirler and figure skater Barbara Ann Scott for being "pioneers of winter sports".[29]

Burke was honoured on National Flag of Canada Day on February 15, 2014. The flag will be given to Burke's family as a tribute to her legacy.[30]

In March 2014, the Government of Ontario announced that it would dedicate Highway 93 in memory of her and name it as the Sarah Burke Memorial Highway.[31] The route extends entirely within Simcoe County with its southern terminus near Barrie, Ontario, her birthplace.


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  12. ^ Sarah Burke Captures Third Straight Gold in Superpipe, January 23, 2009
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  16. ^ The Ski Channel - Sarah Burke Profile
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  26. ^ Sarah Burke's medical bills covered by donations: British Columbia CBC News January 20, 2012
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External links

  • Official website
  • Sarah Burke Foundation
  • Sarah Burke, Game Designer - The Ski Channel wrote a story on 06/18/09 about Sarah's new video game, LittleBigPlanet.
  • Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke dies after training accident - Guardian article.
  • Ascension: The uplifting, unparalleled life of Sarah Burke - PowderMag Article
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