This week Sophie Nicholson, Sportsister’s Mountain Girl blogger reflects on the death of freestyle skier Sarah Burke and looks back at the impact she has had on her sport. Unless you are a skier, it is unlikely that you will have heard of Sarah Burke. And if that is the case, then the chances are that you won’t know that last month Sarah passed away after sustaining injuries whilst training in the halfpipe earlier in January.
This gorgeous, warm and incredibly talented Canadian tragically departed this world at the peak of her freestyle skiing career, in the prime of her life, and at the stupidly young age of 29.
As skiing is a relatively niche sport, if you haven’t heard about Sarah already – her successes or her premature passing – it’s unlikely that you ever will. Whilst I completely understand that, I would still really like to share a bit of information about Sarah because in my mind she was more than just an incredible skier – she was a pioneer, a champion athlete, and an inspiration. Essentially Sarah Burke was the ultimate embodiment of a female sporting spirit and as such her story simply must be told.
From a very young age Sarah loved skiing and lived it completely from that moment on. Her dedication to her passion was unswerving yet despite her incredible talent, Sarah faced many boundaries en route to her success.
As a girl in a predominantly male dominated and comparatively dangerous sport, Sarah often faced rejection and was kept on the outside as girls were just not considered extreme enough or sufficiently marketable by the big competition organisers and sponsors. But Sarah did not give up, she kept showcasing her skills, and fought for the visibility and recognition of her sport.
The determination and talent of female skiers like Sarah was absolutely instrumental in eventually convincing the organizers of the X Games to allow girls into the competition. She created the platform, rose to the challenge and ended up a four times X Games winner. Her dream was to win the Olympics and it is highly likely that she would have achieved exactly that in Sochi in 2014.
She represented, pioneered and defined her sport and as a result, all female skiers will forever owe a debt of gratitude to Sarah Burke. But I believe her legacy extends way beyond the world of freestyle skiing.
Whether you are a triathlete, climber, cyclist or yogi, as an athlete and human being you can learn an enormous amount from how Sarah Burke approached her time on this planet. If you follow your passion, strive to be the best you can be, refuse to be limited, and embrace life with warmth, sincerity and determination then whatever happens, you will have made the most of yourself and your time. And if learning a little bit more about Sarah Burke inspires you to do even one of those things, then her spirit will live on and her passing has a purpose.
All strength and love to Sarah’s husband, family and friends.
Rest easy girl and thank you.
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