Freestyle: Canada coach spread Burke's ashes on halfpipe course

Sat Feb 22, 2014 8:42am EST
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By Alissa de Carbonnel

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Canada's coach carried Sarah Burke's ashes down a halfpipe run and spread them on the Olympic rings to honor the freestyle skier whose tragic death robbed her of a chance to fulfill her Games dream.

Burke, a pioneer of the sport who was a driving force in getting the halfpipe event on the Sochi program, died in a training accident in 2012 at the age of 29.

But her memory has lived on at the Games. Athletes paid tribute by forming a heart with their hands or pointed to the sky as they waited for their results.

The "slippers", whose job it is to clean the pipe, skied down in a heart formation one evening in her honor.

"I feel pretty good just knowing that Sarah, she was all over these Olympics, you know in our hearts and quite literally too," said coach Trennon Paynter, his voice trembling with emotion.

"I carried her with me and I managed to poach a couple of pipes ... which felt really nice to know that she got to take a few hits in the Olympic pipe," he told reporters.

Paynter has carried Burke's ashes - sheathed in a glass cylinder and leather case printed with her name and snowflakes - to every event this season on the road to Sochi.

He was joined by the Canadian freestyle team to spread her ashes over the Olympic rings and then sneaked up the mountain before the Games began to give Burke her the Olympic moment she had so longed for.   Continued...

Canada's Sarah Burke celebrates after winning the Ladies' halfpipe freestyle FIS World Cup Grand Finals 2008 in Chiesa Valmalenco March 12, 2008. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo