Sarah Burke, freestyle skier who pushed limits; at 29

doug pensinger/getty images/file 2009
Sarah Burke won gold at the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colo.

SALT LAKE CITY - Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke died yesterday, nine days after crashing at the bottom of the superpipe during a training run in Utah.

Ms. 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 Ms. Burke sustained “irreversible damage to her brain due to lack of oxygen and blood after cardiac arrest,’’ according to a statement released by Ms. Burke’s publicist on behalf of her family.

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A four-time Winter X Games champion, Ms. 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, Ms. 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 Ms. Burke’s organs and tissues were donated per her wishes.

Ms. 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.

Seeing what a big role the Olympics has played in pushing the Shaun Whites of the world from the fringes into the mainstream, Ms. Burke lobbied to add superpipe skiing to the Olympic program, asserting that no new infrastructure would be needed - the pipe was already built - and the Olympics could get twice the bang for the buck.

She won over the Olympic bigwigs, and the discipline will debut at the Sochi Games in 2014.

Ms. 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.

Previously, Ms. Burke broke a vertebrae after landing awkwardly while competing in slopestyle at the X Games. It was her lobbying that helped get slopestyle - where riders shoot down the mountain and over “features’’ including bumps and rails - into the X Games.


She returned a year after that injury and kept going at the highest level, trying the toughest tricks and winning the biggest prizes.

A native of Midland, Ontario, Ms. Burke won the ESPY in 2007 as female action sports athlete of the year. In 2010, she married another freestyle skier, Rory Bushfield.