Extreme skier motivated by late wife
Last March, Balzac residents may have been surprised to see a familiar face on their television screens.
Alongside NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Detroit Lions defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh was Rory Bushfield, a 30-year-old extreme skier and member of Nitro Circus Live.
Bushfield, who hails from Balzac, starred on ABC’s reality series Splash, an athletic competition wherein celebrities attempt to master the art of diving.
Bushfield beat out Abdul-Jabbar and Suh, along with other celebrities like Baywatch star Nicole Eggert and comedian Louie Anderson to win the competition on May 7.
And viewers were quick to note what was clearly Bushfield’s motivation throughout the competition – he would frequently refer to the recent passing of his wife, Sarah Burke.
Bushfield and Burke, both freestyle skiers, married in 2010. Burke, a four-time Winter X Games gold medallist, was training in Utah in January of 2012 and had an accident on the superpipe, completing a trick but landing on her head.
To onlookers, the accident did not appear to be very serious. Burke was airlifted to a nearby hospital and succumbed to her injuries nine days later.
Bushfield, was left in a state of despair. But what first brought Bushfield and Burke together was a sense of enthusiasm and of positivity. That shared mentality helped Bushfield move forward.
“What gets me motivated is Sarah,” Bushfield said.
“I look at how she lived her life, it motivates me to get up in the morning and tear it up.”
Bushfield is now president of the Sarah Burke Foundation, an organization which provides financial support to young athletes who inspire and are examples in their community.
Alongside supporters and Sarah’s friends, the foundation offers scholarships and inspiration to students exemplifying consistent academic success and a philanthropic spirit. On May 8, the foundation presented three scholarships of $7,500 to exceptional students.
Bushfield said the foundation’s work focused on developing people who embodied Sarah’s spirit.
“She was just so energetic, man, always smiling,” Bushfield said. “She was always a light when you walked into a room.”
“I feel super lucky I got to share some of the things she did.”
Burke successfully lobbied the International Olympic Committee to add freestyle skiing for the 2014 Winter Olympics, and Bushfield hopes to raise the foundation’s exposure prior to the event.
Bushfield now resides in Squamish, B.C., and still is devoted to freestyle skiing. He’ll keep moving forward – because it’s what Sarah would want him to do, he said.
“We supported each other. Sarah brought it out in me to encourage me to do the things I love to do,” he said.
“I want to do things that I think Sarah would be proud of.”
For the summer, Bushfield is headed back to coach at a summer camp where he and Burke taught.