Prime Minister Stephen Harper honoured the legacy of former Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke during Saturday’s National Flag Day ceremony in Ottawa.
Harper presented the Peace Tower flag to Burke’s parents, Gordon Burke and Jan Phelan, who were accompanied by widower Rory Bushfield.
Burke died in January 2012 in Salt Lake City just over a week after being critically injured in a crash during a training run at a personal sponsor event in Park City, Utah.
The 29-year-old had surgery to repair a ruptured vertebral artery and was put into an induced coma after being airlifted to Salt Lake City but never regained consciousness.
Recognized on Feb. 15, Flag Day commemorates the inauguration of the red and white Maple Leaf, which was adopted on the date in 1965.
“At no time is national pride in our flag more evident than during the Olympic Games, and it is certainly on prominent display in Sochi over so many podiums and around so many of our magnificent athletes. We could not be more proud," Harper said.
“In keeping with the recent tradition of presenting a Peace Tower flag to deserving Canadians, I am deeply honoured to present this symbol of our country to Gordon Burke and Jan Phelan.
“Sarah was a gifted athlete, a trailblazer in freestyle skiing, and one of the principal reasons why the halfpipe was introduced as an Olympic sport this year in Sochi, Russia. She was a great Canadian whose efforts have had a remarkable impact on the world of sport, and whose story has touched the nation. Her legacy will live on in the many athletes who take up the sport she so championed."
Before her death, Burke might have been the best female halfpipe skier in the world, an icon among those who follow a sport that is well out of the mainstream. She never failed to step on the podium at a World Cup meet during her career.
She also claimed four Winter X Games gold medals between 2007 and 2011.
“On this day, I invite all Canadians to take a moment and reflect on our national icon and what it means to be Canadian,” Harper said.
Since 1996, the Peace Tower flag has been presented annually to a Canadian who has exemplified the values Canada holds most dear.
-With files from Dave Pollard, QMI