Sarah Burke was a pioneer, a Canadian freestyle skier who was a multi-time X-Games Champion and who led the charge to get free style skiing (the half-pipe and slopestyle) events into the Olympic Games. Sochi, where these events have and will debut for the first time was supposed to be Burke’s showcase, her crowning moment. She was likely to enter the games as a gold medal favorite, but that all changed in a training run in Utah, just over two years ago.
Burke fell during a routine training run, hitting her head in the process and slipping into a coma. On January 29, 2012; the 29-year-old World Champion passed away. She left behind a multitude of mourners, including her husband Rory Bushfield; her parents, Gordon and Jan Burke; and numerous other family, friends, coaches, teammates, fellow competitors, and fans.
In a statement issued on Saturday, Prime Minister Steven Harper has announced that the country will honour the memory of the late freestyle skier Sarah Burke today, on Canada’s flag day.
National Flag of Canada Day is a commemorated on February 15th of each year. The tradition began in 1996 and it marks the day in 1965 when the Canadian Flag was officially raised across the country for the first time.
Each year on Flag Day, the flag flying on top of the Peace Tower in Ottawa is given to a Canadian “who has exemplified the values of our country holds most dear.”
Prime Minister Harper will present this year’s flag to Burke’s widower and parents. The family is currently on their way to Sochi, to watch the freestyle halfpipe event, and as such an official ceremony will be held when they return.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Burke 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.”
“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.”
The news comes on the heels of the IOC announcement that athletes in the games will not be allowed to wear armbands, stickers, or pins in tribute to Burke while competing in the games. An announcement that was met with disbelief amongst athletes, such as Australian snowboarder Torah Bright and Canadian Roz Groenewoud who wanted to honour Burke’s memory during these games.
Hopefully this new honour will help them cope with the grief of losing a friend and help keep the memory of Sarah Burke strong going forward.
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Main Photo Credit: David Zalubowski