By Tom Degun in Innsbruck

sarah burke_20-01-12January 21 - The world of winter sport has been paying tributes to Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke, who has died at the age of 29 from injuries sustained in a training accident.

Burke, a four-time Winter X Games champion, was seriously injured following a crash while training at Park City in Utah on January 11 that saw her fall heavily on her head.

She was airlifted to the University of Utah Hospital but tests showed that the freestyle skier had sustained "irreversible damage to her brain" and she succumbed to her injuriesearlier this week, with her organs and tissues donated as per her wishes.

Burke was considered the best-known athlete in her sport and she played a major role in lobbying to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to add freestyle skiing to the Olympic programme.

She failed in her attempt to get the event added for Vancouver 2010 but she was finally successful when it was included last year.

The sport made its official Olympic debut here at the Winter Youth Olympic Games and it is due to appear at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.

Burke was considered a strong gold medal contender for Sochi 2014 before her death, which has cast a cloud over these Games in Austria.

"Canada and the world lost a wonderful athlete and a great Canadian ambassador in freestyle skier Sarah Burke," said Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) President Marcel Aubut, who is currently here.

"Sarah was a true inspiration to all who had the privilege to know her, especially to the new generation of athletes in this country as she helped define the superpipe discipline in the sport of freestyle skiing.

"Her fans from Canada and around the world looked up to her and all she has accomplished as a true leader.

"This true champion will be missed but never forgotten.

"On behalf of everyone at the Canadian Olympic Committee, I wish to express my deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Sarah Burke.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with them at this difficult time."

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A native of Ontario, Burke won was named female action sports athlete of the year by television network ESPN in 2007, while her crash occurred on the same superpipe where snowboarder Kevin Pearce suffered a traumatic brain injury during a training accident in late 2009.

"Sarah, in many ways, defines the sport," said Peter Judge, the chief executive of Canada's freestyle team, before she died.

"She's been involved since the very, very early days as one of the first people to bring skis into the pipe.

"She's also been very dedicated in trying to define her sport but not define herself by winning.

"For her, it's been about making herself the best she can be rather than comparing herself to other people."

Judge also defended the safety record of the superpipe and other freestyle events, pointing to requirements for mandatory helmet use, air bags on the sides of pipes during practice and better pipe-building technology.

"There are inherent risks in everything," he said.

"Freestyle is a very safe sport in large part because we had to build a safe sport in order to get into the Olympics."

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