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Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke dead at 29

January 19, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke died on Thursday, nine days after a training accident in Utah. She was 29.

Burke, who lived near Whistler in British Columbia, was injured Jan. 10 when she crashed at the bottom of the superpipe at an event at the Park City Mountain resort.

In a statement released by her publicist, Burke sustained "irreversible damage to her brain due to lack of oxygen and blood after cardiac arrest."

Burke, a four-time Winter X Games champion, crashed on the same halfpipe where snowboarder Kevin Pearce suffered a traumatic brain injury during a training accident on Dec. 31, 2009.

The fall tore her vertebral artery, which led to severe bleeding of the brain. This caused her to go into cardiac arrest on the scene, where CPR was performed, according to the statement by publicist Nicole Wool.

Wool said Burke's organs and tissues were donated per her wishes.

Burke was the best-known athlete in her sport and will be remembered for the legacy she left for women in freestyle skiing.

She set the standard for skiing in the superpipe, a sister sport to the more popular snowboarding brand that has turned Shaun White, Hannah Teter and others into stars.

Burke lobbied to add superpipe skiing to the Olympic program, using the argument that no new infrastructure would be needed - the pipe was already built - and the Olympics could get twice the bang for their buck.

She won over the Olympic bigwigs, and the discipline will debut at the Sochi Games in 2014.

Burke, who was favored to win a fifth X Games title later this month, would have been a favorite for the gold medal in Sochi, as well. Instead, sadly, the competitors will have to toast to her memory when they make their debut on what will be the sport's grandest stage.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.