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Olympics: Medalists Honor Sarah Burke by Pointing to the Sky

Banned from wearing stickers, they find another way to salute fallen competitor

In one of the most emotional moments of the Winter Olympics, the women’s freestyle skiing halfpipe medalists pointed at the sky from the podium in honor of fallen competitor Sarah Burke. Halfpipe workers, meanwhile, skied in a heart shape in her memory.

Burke, a Canadian four-time X Games champion who pushed to get the event into the games, died in training in 2012 without ever getting to see the event debut in Sochi. Her colleagues and competitors had wanted to wear stickers on their helmets to honor her, but the the International Olympic Committee determined that they were a political statement and banned them.

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So the winners honored her from the podium. Gold medalist Maddie Bowman of the U.S., silver medalist Marie Martinod of France and bronze medalist Ayana Onozuka of Japan raised their hands to the sky in her memory.

“I pointed to the sky because the IOC did not want us to wear [the stickers] on our helmets. So, we all decided we would point to the sky as a sign of respect for Sarah,” Martinod, a close friend of Burke, told NBC Sports.

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Years ago, Martinod retired from competition to raise her daughter and open a nightclub. But she told NBC she returned to the sport because Burke asked her to.

“I did what she wanted me to do,” said Martinod (pictured left, with Bowman, center, and Onozuka, right).

Martinod’s silver, combined with the French sweep in ski cross, gave France the most medals it has ever won in a single day.