By Jack Tarrant
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) – As the dust settled following the ladies ski halfpipe final on Tuesday, thoughts turned to the woman who deserves most of the credit for making the sport an Olympic event.
Canadian freestyle skiing pioneer Sarah Burke successfully lobbied the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to include the halfpipe event in the Olympic program for the first time at Sochi 2014 before tragedy struck.
Just two years ahead of the sport’s Olympic debut, the world of freestyle skiing was turned upside-down when medal favorite Burke died following a training crash in Utah at the age of 29.
Ever since that devastating event, skiers have vowed to continue Burke’s legacy, none more than 33-year-old Marie Martinod, who claimed her second Olympic silver medal on Tuesday.
Martinod walked away from the sport at the age of 22 to start a family but credits Burke with persuading her to return to competitive skiing.
Although the Frenchwoman lost out to Canada’s Cassie Sharpe in Pyeongchang, Martinod believes Burke would be beaming with pride at the sight of a Canadian on top of the Olympic podium in a sport she strived to promote.
“Sarah is proud of me, I can tell you. She is with me and she is proud of me,” said Martinod, who often dons stickers that pay tribute to Burke.
“Of course she would be proud of having a Canadian in first place but she would also be so proud of the level of this competition.
“We saw lots of tricks, lots of amplitude and that is exactly what she was fighting for.”
The 25-year-old Sharpe said she had only met Burke once but still felt the presence and influence of her fellow Canadian.
“I definitely feel her legacy in this team and in this sport,” she said after clinching gold.
“Marie said to me that I have the ability to carry on what Sarah was doing here. That is super special and meant a lot.
“I wouldn’t be doing the tricks that I do without her being in the sport. She was the pioneer for us to be in the Olympics and for us to be a part of it. She is always on our minds and is always with us.”
(Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Editing by John O’Brien)