Sarah Burke was one of the main reasons the women’s freestyle skiing halfpipe event was introduced to the 2014 Sochi Olympics, and athletes at the first ever competition have not forgotten her contribution.
More than two years after the tragic accident that claimed Burke’s life, competitors at Thursday’s freeski halfpipe competition kept Burke’s memory alive with tributes.
Maddie Bowman, who made history in her own right as the youngest American to win a gold medal at the Sochi Games, pointed to the sky while on the podium as a tribute to Burke.
“Sarah Burke is watching over us tonight, and we just want to honor her as much as we can,” said Bowman, who has called Burke a personal idol.
Even her former opponents paid tribute. Marie Martinod, a French skier who competed against Sarah Burke as a teen, painted snowflakes on her fingernails as a tribute to Burke.
“I’m thinking I didn’t say goodbye to Sarah yet,” Martinod told USA Today. “Now I think I can do it because she asked me to do what she told me to do when I last saw her two years ago.”
Sarah Burke was remembered as a daring superpipe skater who helped put her sport on the map and open the door for women to compete in the event at the Olympics through her relentless lobbying. She was killed in 2012 after an accident at a training session left her in a coma in Park City, Utah.
Many believed Burke would have won a gold medal in the 2014 Sochi Olympics had she competed, and at Thursday’s event competitors had not forgotten her contributions.
“Sarah has inspired us on snow and off snow, and she would have been very proud of how all of the girls rode tonight,” Bowman said. “I sure hope that I and everyone else made her proud, because we would have not been here without her.”
Not all tributes to Sarah Burke were allowed, however. The International Olympic Committee determined that stickers created as a tribute to her were a political statement, and barred competitors from wearing them.