Sarah Burke, a Canadian freestyle skiing pioneer and champion, has died from injuries she suffered in a fall after a training run last week in Park City, Utah.
Burke, 29, suffered “irreversible damage to her brain due to lack of oxygen and blood after cardiac arrest,” her publicist said in a statement.
“Sarah passed away peacefully surrounded by those she loved,” the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association said in a news release.
Burke went into cardiac arrest on the course and was resuscitated on the scene after falling Jan. 10. She had been placed in a medically induced coma and underwent surgery at a Salt Lake City hospital to repair a ruptured vertebral artery that had caused intracranial bleeding. An expected update on her condition by her doctors Monday was suddenly canceled and concerns for Burke’s recovery grew.
“The family expresses their heartfelt gratitude for the international outpouring of support they have received from all the people Sarah touched,” the statement said.
Burke, who lived in Squamish, B.C., was a four-time Winter X Games champion and a fierce advocate for her sport, which will be included in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. She was a favorite to medal.
Her death will continue to provoke debate about the safety of extreme sports. Kevin Pearce, an Olympic snowboarding medalist, suffered a traumatic brain injury when he struck his head in a fall on the same course in 2009. After two years of intense therapy, he took his first ride on a snowboard in December, but his injuries prompted debate about the dangers of winter sports. Halfpipe courses, with their high walls and steep, slick surfaces, are particularly dangerous, as is the luge. Nodar Kumaritashvili, a Georgian luge slider, died after colliding with a metal pole during a training run in the Vancouver Olympics.
In the below excerpt from The Ski Channel’s second feature film, “Winter”, posted to YouTube on Jan. 11, Burke and her husband, Rory Bushfield, discuss their passion for skiing.
“That’s where we’re the happiest,” Burke said. “It’s what our lives are is being on the hill, and there’s a reason for that. It’s amazing. It’s where we met, it’s where we play, we live . . . and where we’ll die.”
(H/T Bruce Arthur)
More from Washington Post Sports:
Early Lead: Athletes react to news of Burke’s death