Sarah Burke had it all. She was the most talented freestyle skier in the world, a 4-time X-Games champion, the odds on favorite to win Olympic gold. She was recently married, intelligent, beautiful and must have been one of the happiest people on the planet.
And then, in an instant, it was all gone.
Burke died today from a brain injury after a accident while training at Park City Mountain Resort January 10th. She was 29 years old.
Burke fought for years to have her sport, women's freestyle skiing, included in the Olympics. She conducted clinics to help up and coming skiers learn the awe-inspiring tricks of the sport. The IOC finally relented, and superpipe skiing is set to make its debut at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
Burke was on the verge of becoming a household name in the same vein as Lindsey Vonn and Picabo Street. But that's all gone now, and it's just not fair.
Burke took all the necessary precautions. She wore all the protective gear, but it wasn't enough. Those who witnessed the crash said it didn't look that bad at first. It was a freak accident that ended horrifically. She was generous to the very end, donating her organs and tissues to others in need.
Already a legend in her own community, Burke will now be remembered as a pioneer in women's sports. Superpipe skiing was a sport dominated by men. But Sarah fought so hard for so long so that other athletes would have the opportunity to compete at the highest level in front of the largest audience.
It's just such a shame she won't be able to experience it herself. Every female skier owes a large debt of gratitude to Sarah Burke.
In an interview some years ago, Sarah said about her beloved sport, "It's what our lives are. Being on the hill there's a reason for that. It's amazing. It's where we play, where we live and hopefully where we die."