Sarah Burke Dead at 29: Succumbs to Skiing Injuries

 @sara_dover
on January 19 2012 4:07 PM
Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke dies at 29
Canadian freestyle skiing champion Sarah Burke fell into a coma after sustaining an injury during a superpipe training run Tuesday at the Park City Mountain Resort in Park City, Utah, according to reports. (Reuters/Alessandro Garofalo) Reuters

Sarah Burke, X Games champion and trailblazing freestyle skiier, died Thursday from a head injury she sustained while practicing on a half-pipe nine days ago. She was 29.

University of Utah officials confirmed in a statement to the Deseret News that the Olympic hopeful died at 9:22 a.m. surrounded by family. She is survived by her husband, pro-freeskiier Rory Bushfield.

Burke was critically injured when she hit her head while performing a trick at a course training ramp in Park City, Utah. She was practicing for the upcoming Winter X Games in Colorado, which she has won four times.

Family publicist Nicole Wool said Burke's organs will be donated.

The family expresses their heartfelt gratitude for the international outpouring of support they have received from all the people Sarah touched, Wool said in a statement, according to The Associated Press.

Tests show that the Candian Olympic hopeful suffered cardiac arrest and loss of oxygen to the brain when she fell on her head, according to The Associated Press. Earlier this week, surgeons said they had successfully repaired a torn vertebral artery that caused intracranial hemorrhaging last week.

On Monday, however, her family had canceled a planned press conference so doctors could perform neurological tests.

Burke was a major force in popularizing superpipe skiing. She lobbied to have the sport in the Olympics, with the argument that the equipment was already in place and that it would attract more interest in the games. The sport will be included in Sochi 2014.

She was also the first woman ever to successfully land a 1080-degree rotation jump in competition

The pro-skiier's accident has already reignited the debate about extreme sport safety. Recreational and professional skiiers worry that Burke's death could lead to backlash against the sport -- the high risk is one of the sport's selling points.

There's a desire to push the envelope, said Jeff Schmuck, managing editor of Newschoolers.com and a recreational freeskier. Sarah has been pushing the envelope for years.

She will undoubtedly be remembered for being a pioneer in winter athletics.

Today, Canada and the world lost a wonderful athlete and a great Canadian ambassador in freestyle skier Sarah Burke, the Canadian Olympic Committee wrote in a statement. Sarah was a true inspiration to all who had the privilege to know her, especially to the new generation of athletes in this country as she helped define the superpipe discipline in the sport of freestyle skiing. Her fans from Canada and around the world looked up to her and all she has accomplished as a true leader. This true champion will be missed but never forgotten.

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