Dear IOC we need to talk about Torah and Sarah

Sarah Burke’s death went to the heart of the freestyle ski and snowboard community but the IOC doesn’t want to see her name.

It started with a Facebook post from Torah Bright expressing her dismay that she is banned from placing her Sarah Burke stickers on her helmet and board while competing at Sochi.

Stickers she has proudly sported since her dear Canadian friend Sarah lay on life support in a Salt Lake City hospital after falling in the Park City Mountain halfpipe during ski training. A dear friend that lost her twenty nine years of life too early to the ski halfpipe sport she loved.

But the IOC considers the stickers a political statement.

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This is the first Olympics to feature ski and snowboard slopestyle and ski halfpipe. The X Games put these sports on the global map and the Olympics understandably wanted in.

The next generation of skiers and snowboarders (and viewers) follow these sports and try their own hand at them in terrain parks that are now standard in every commercial ski resort. Put simply there is money and exposure to be made from these sports for the Olympics.

But with these extreme sports comes a tight knit community and a spirit that says life is for living, jump high, fly and give life a red hot go. Skiers and snowboarders at elite level know the risks of the sport, they train hard to keep death from knocking on their sporting door. But it doesn’t mean death never arrives, even for the most experienced and when one of their own dies it feels as though their own hearts have stopped beating.

The solution is to keep riding, and to keep riding and skiing with joy and do it for the spirit of those who have left this earth. Take that spirit away and you lose the spirit of the sport.

Sarah and Torah. Photo: Caitlin Thorne Hersey and the New York Post

If Sarah Burke was still with us she would be competing at Sochi and would no doubt have her name carved in Olympic history with a podium placement. But she’s not and her friends who owe their time at the Olympics to her would like to honour Sarah in any way they can.

For Torah that’s stickers.

They are not sponsor stickers, they are not stickers to incite a riot, they are a nod to a woman who embodied the Olympic spirit “to build a peaceful and better world in the Olympic Spirit which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.” 

Yes the Olympics has rules about ‘advertising’ and ‘political statements’ and promoting non Olympic related charities and I get that if the set the precedent it opens the flood gates for more but this is a statement about Sarah and the spirit she shared with those five rings, nothing more, nothing less.

The Sarah Burke Foundation sell Celebrate Sarah stickers to raise funds for The Spirit of Sarah Scholarship program.
The Sarah Burke Foundation sell Celebrate Sarah stickers to raise funds for The Spirit of Sarah Scholarship program.

If it wasn’t for Sarah Burke, slopestyle ski and halfpipe ski may never have been accepted into the Sochi Winter Olympic Games. She was a four time X Games medalist and the first female to stomp a 720, 900 and 1080 in halfpipe competition, she led the battle to have women not just included in all freeski competitions but to be paid equally. 

When halfpipe ski debuts at Sochi on February 20 Sarah’s widower, Rory Bushfield, and her father Gord Burke will both be in the stands supporting Sarah’s friends and colleagues and those that Sarah inspired.

It would be a big picture gesture if the IOC allowed Sarah to be honoured on the helmets of the competitors if only for this event alone.

Stickerpack donated Believe in Sarah & Remember Sarah to help offset the cost of Sarah's medical bills.
Stickerpack donated Believe in Sarah & Remember Sarah to help offset the cost of Sarah’s medical bills and were inundated with orders from skiers around the world at the time of Sarah’s accident.

Do you think the IOC should allow Sarah Burke stickers at the ski halfpipe event at Sochi on February 20? Should Torah Bright be allowed to wear them in her snowboard events?

If you would like to keep Sarah Burke’s legacy alive visit The Sarah Burke Foundation website.

Rachael Oakes-Ash is the name behind @misssnowitall and the founder of A long time travel and lifestyle journalist and ski writer, she's been published in ESPN, TIME, Wallpaper*, Action Asia, Inside Sport, Australian Financial Review, Emirates Open Skies, Conde Nast Traveler and more. She was the Fairfax snow blogger from 2007 to 2017 and the Southern Hemisphere editor for OnTheSnow. Rachael is also a documentary producer, author, radio announcer and humorist.


  1. If a snowboard can sport “Pussy Riot” how can “Remember Sarah” be offensive?
    This should have been handled quietly and let go. Now they’ve got a “cause” to deal with. Yet another case of poor judgment, bad PR execution, and little real understanding of what’s important to clamp down on.

    From the “Culture of No”. Nuff said…

  2. It is sad that she can’t wear the stickers but if this is allowed then it opens the door to all sorts of problems, people can hide meanings in stickers then reveal the details after the event so I support the IOC stance on this one, it seems very cold but there are other ways of supporting her good friends memory and legacy.

  3. Totally agree with jlhilleary. Had this been handled quietly it would have saved a whole can of worms. IOC have now ignited a fire and I just hope they now see the folly of their actions. This is s young adrenaline group of people. Their requests were in respect honour and good taste, sorry but IOC your answer and actions did not come up to their standards.


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