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Jan Phalen

Jan Phalen, mother of Sarah Burke, was on hand to help posthumously induct Burke into the Builder category of the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame. Burke helped usher the halfpipe into a mainstream sport and will now be an official Olympic event in 2014.

Competing at the Olympics was Sarah’s dream and I am very grateful for this honour, acknowledging Sarah’s accomplishments and her work over the years, to build her sport up to the Olympic level.

Sarah would be very proud.

This Induction recognizes and validates all her practices, all her falls, her emails, letters, her persistence and fearlessness in tackling both the difficulty of the next jump and the difficulty of the system that wasn’t ready yet to accept her.

There were two sides to Sarah.

Sarah was an amazing and talented athlete living her life with passion and determination doing what she loved to do.

In the beginning, the competition organizers didn’t know what to do with her – a young woman who could hold her own with the men. They didn’t know it yet, but they had a tiger on their tail.

She wrote letters relentlessly, working at convincing them to open up the field to women. She encouraged young women to compete, coaching them, cheering them on, and at the same time, pushing her own skills to higher levels.

“No” was never an option.

The other and most important side of Sarah was her integrity, loyalty, her great capacity to love and to show that love.

After her crash in Salt Lake City, there were so many kind and heartfelt letters, but one still stands out for me.

It was from Magdalena in Poland. Sarah had never been to Poland nor had they ever met. Magdalena wrote that she had been skiing the day before and everyone on the hill had the red “Believe in Sarah” stickers on their snowboards and skiis.

Magdalena went on to say ……”Tears come with the human condition, but the beautiful part of this tragedy are all the hearts around the world that she touched”

In closing I would like to borrow some words that I think embody her legacy:

“ The world will never be the same without her, but will forever be a better place because of her”.

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