Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke died at the age of 29 on Thursday morning from head injuries sustained during a training run.
The skier was one of the premier stars of the Winter X-Games, winning four gold medals in the superpipe events that she helped revolutionize.
Burke won’t be remembered for her medals, but for the legacy she left to a sport that had long been overshadowed by snowboarding and stars like Shaun White and Hannah Teter.
Burke knew that the one way her sport could be pushed to the mainstream would be with the support of the Olympic organization, so the Canadian skier lobbied to add the superpipe skiing event to the Winter Games, noting that the infrastructure was already there from the snowboarding event.
Her incessant campaign worked. Freestyle skiing will live its grandest moments in Sochi 2014 when it debuts in the Winter Games, but now it will be with a heavy heart.
It’s biggest advocate and heavy favorite to win gold in 2014 won’t be there to see her biggest dream come true.
Her arguments won over Olympic officials, and the discipline will debut in two years in Russia, where Burke likely would have been a favorite for the gold medal, as well as the biggest draw.
Undoubtedly her compatriots will come out to show their love and respect during the event, as her compatriots did in the Olympic qualifying match that the Canadian squad played Wednesday night.
As the sport debuts in 2014 Olympic Games, it will serve as a great memorial service to the first real advocate of the sport.
“I think we’re all doing this, first off, because we love it and want to be the best,” she said after winning the ESPY in 2010. “But I also think it would’ve been a great opportunity, huge for myself and for skiing and for everyone, if we could’ve gotten into the [Vancouver] Olympics. It’s sad. I mean, I’m super lucky to be where I am, but that would’ve been pretty awesome.”
A year later, the sport was added to the agenda, and in two short years it will debut with a huge hole in its heart.
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