The Washington Post

Freestyle skier Sarah Burke died ‘peacefully surrounded by those she loved’

View Photo Gallery: Sarah Burke was a freestyle champion who would have been expected to medal in the 2014 Olympics.

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.

(Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

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

Sarah Burke dies from injuries sustained in superpipe accident

Family, doctors of Burke cancel medical update

Burke has surgery for head injury, no prognosis for recovery

Early Lead: Sarah Burke remains in medically induced coma after freestyle accident

Halfpipe skiers acknowledge dangers of sport but still hit superpipe

View Photo Gallery: Images of well-known people who have died this year.

After spending most of her career in traditional print sports journalism, Cindy began blogging and tweeting, first as NFL/Redskins editor, and, since August 2010, at The Early Lead. She also is the social media editor for Sports.
Matt Brooks is the high school sports editor for The Washington Post. He's an Arlington native and longtime District resident and was previously a high school sports reporter, editor for several blogs and Early Lead contributor with The Post.


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