|Canada's Sarah Burke celebrates after winning the ladies' halfpipe freestyle FIS World Cup Grand Finals 2008 in Chiesa Valmalenco in this March 12, 2008 file photo. (REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo/Files)
SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. — Even as a little girl, Sarah Burke dreamed of going to the Olympics, her grandmother says.
“She wanted to get to the Olympics as either a skier or a skater,” Jean Burke told QMI Agency Saturday. “And she definitely was a pioneer for women through her perseverance.”
Sarah was considered among the favourites to strike gold in Sochi, Russia, in the 2014 Winter Games.But that dream ended when the renowned Canadian freestyle skier and X Games champion crashed Jan. 10 during a training run. She died Jan. 19.
The 29-year-old ruptured her vertebral artery, which led to internal bleeding and sent the skier into cardiac arrest.According to a statement released by her family, Burke, who made her home in Squamish, B.C., succumbed to “irreversible damage to her brain.”
Jean remembers visits from her granddaughter, who grew up in Midland, Ont. Sarah took skiing lessons at a local resort and skating.
“She was wonderful,” Jean said. “She was intelligent and a wonderful athlete. She was a beautiful person, inside and out. One could never say anything bad about her.”
Jean said Sarah’s death has been “very difficult, but we’re doing very well.”
What’s also made dealing with Sarah’s death somewhat easier, Jean said, is the worldwide support and coverage her story has generated.
“It’s been phenomenal,” Jean said. “At 29, it’s hard to believe she made such an impact on the world.”
The first woman to land a 1080, or three-revolution trick, Burke will be remembered for pushing to get women into the X Games, an ESPN-sponsored action sports showcase, and for advocating to get freestyle skiing into the Olympics.
Asked if she, and her husband, John, would be attending services for Sarah, Jean said it was too soon to make any decision as funeral arrangements haven’t been made.