SOCHI, RUSSIA - Even as he was living his own moment of glory, Mike Riddle was thinking of someone else.
He was thinking of a pioneer in his sport, a woman who did so much to get freestyle skiing halfpipe into the Olympics but tragically didn’t ever get to see it come to fruition.
He was thinking of Sarah Burke, the taken-far-too-young star of the halfpipe. She, who has been on so many people in the freestyle community’s minds this week.
“I don’t think we would be here without her,” said Riddle, a 27-year-old from Edmonton who won a silver medal in the men’s halfpipe Tuesday. “Halfpipe has got to where it is because of her.”
Burke died in 2012 after hitting her head during a training run in Park City, Utah. Her death rocked the freestyle community, especially since she was the one who successfully lobbied the International Olympic Committee to have the event added for Sochi 2014.
“Sarah was on my team for a bunch of years,” Riddle said. “The Olympics is bittersweet. It is awesome to be here but she should be here too. I know that she would want me to come here and do my best.”
A four-time Winter X-Games champion and 2005 world champion in the superpipe, Burke would have been a gold medal favourite here as well. But her legacy lives on in the performances of the other Canadians. Her good friend Roz Groenewoud of Calgary will try to win gold Thursday, and Riddle’s silver medal is already paying tribute.
“It’s unbelievable,” Riddle said after scoring 90.60 on his second run to finish second behind David Wise of the United States. “I put down a good run in what were difficult conditions. I knew I had a chance.”
For the first time in at least a week, it was snowing heavily at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park and conditions were challenging on the halfpipe course. It was foggy and the snow was wet and soft.
Wise was able to deal with the snow on his first run, pulling off both right and left-side double-corked 1260 spins that earned him a score of 92.00.
Riddle scored only 71.40 points on his first run and was ranked sixth, but his final run, with a slightly lower degree of difficulty than Wise’s first run, was nearly flawless.
“I have never done that combination before, back-to-back (double corked) 1260s but I decided it was a good time to do it for the first time,” Riddle said.
“It has taken lots of work and a lifetime dedicated to skiing to get here.”
Riddle said the course crews had to go over and above to make sure the halfpipe was ready.