The emotional entry of Women’s Ski Halfpipe into the Winter Olympics came to a head in Sochi. As Maddie Bowman stood on the Podium, taking the sports first Olympic Gold, she paid tribute to Sarah Burke who advocated like no one else for this event to be allowed. It was a jumble of mixed emotion throughout the crowd and competitors as the event came to a close. With Burke’s parents there to support the athletes, it was an overall win for the Freeskiing community.
Bowman dropped into the pipe a bit nervous, telling reporters later that she felt like she was going to barf. Instead she channeled her energy into two solid runs. Her friends and competitors held her performance as the most technical of the competition and maybe even the year. Coming into the Olympics Bowman was coming off a second Gold Medal in the Winter X Games, giving her some momentum and favor in this event. Although conditions were not optimal and viewers watched as some athletes took some serious spills, Maddie held it together with back-to-back 900’s, wowing the crowd. Both of her runs were pretty clean, only adding to her score in the second lap, with a final score of 89.00. At 20 years old, and the youngest athlete in the competition, she made Tahoe proud as she made her mark in History.
The emotion that made its way into the event came from the memory of Halfpipe Skier Sarah Burke. Burke passed in 2012 after an accident while training in Utah. Sarah, who would have potentially been favored for a medal in Sochi, led the charge for this event to get into the Olympics. Although Sarah was only there in spirit her family wanted to support the other athletes, who they had been close with throughout Sarah’s career. The athletes had originally planned to honor Burke with decals on their helmets but were banned by the IOC as it did not comply with uniform standards previously set. As there were many private memorials for Burke throughout community during the Games, her former coach, Trennon Paynter, had something special in mind. Knowing Sarah would have wanted to take a lap down the pipe, he brought her ashes to Sochi and spread them at various sites, including the Halfpipe. Although he might have broken a couple of rules it was a memorial appreciated by many, as she would have been proud to see her event make its debut.
Women’s Halfpipe Skiing has progressed rapidly with it only being entered into the X Games in 2005. Now, after athletes like Burke have pushed and pushed for the continued progression of Freeskiing, the world is able to look on and appreciate the athletic ability these amazing women bring to the table.