Sarah Burke

Canadian Sports Hall Of Fame Gets It Right With Sarah Burke Induction

BY: Mark Kristofic PHOTOGRAPHY: Paul Morrison

Too often in our world of sport, a person’s character is judged by their athletic accomplishments. Athletic hero’s are revered for what they have done, what they can do and not enough on who they are.

This was not the case on Wednesday night when freestyle skiing pioneer Sarah Burke was inducted posthumously into the Canadian Sport Hall of Fame. While it was Sarah’s accomplishments as an athlete and a builder in freestyle skiing that brought her to the Hall of Fame, it was the recollection of the kind of person that she was that left not a single dry eye in the room.

Sarah’s story is well known – a pioneer in the halfpipe, the first female to land a 720, 900 and 1080 in competition and 4 time X-Games champion who was taken from this world far too early after sustaining a serious head injury while training in Park City. And while her athletic results were legendary, it was her determined (and successful) efforts to have women’s halfpipe first included in the X-Games, and later in the Olympics that cemented her status as a pioneer in the sport.

Sarah Burke2

But none of that was really the focus on Wednesday night.  In introducing Sarah, current Canadian Freestyle Ski Team athlete Roz Groenewoud spoke about what an incredible mentor and teammate Sarah was, even in an individual sport where they were also competitors.

Even more moving was her father’s acceptance into the Hall on Sarah’s behalf. I could not possibly imagine the level of emotion that Gord Burke went through when he so eloquently spoke of Sarah as an incredibly kind human being that played the sport, someone who loved what she did every minute of the day.

Gord recounted a story of when Sarah was breaking into the sport and having landed her first goggle sponsor was speaking with a young fan who had asked for her autograph. When the young fan commented about how much he liked her goggles, Sarah without hesitation pulled them off her helmet and handed them over to the elated fan.

We are not talking about highly paid professional athletes here, as Gord jokingly recalled, and thought to himself that at the time he didn’t even have a pair of nice goggles.

Sarah Burke3

But ultimately it came down to this, and my point about a person’s character winning out over their accomplishments. Gord had no recollection or memory of how Sarah placed that day, but he will forever remember her handing over her new goggles to a smiling young fan.

On a day that sport headlines were typically filled with the same old mundane baseball headlines and television sport panels debated what a hockey player had for breakfast, good on the Canadian Sport Hall of fame for recognizing Sarah for her accomplishments and allowing her friends and family to further share with the world the kind of person she was.