Updated: Friday, 21 February 2014 03:45 | By Agence France-Presse

Bowman dedicates gold medal to halfpipe pioneer

Young American Maddie Bowman won the first ever women's freestyle skiing halfpipe gold at the Olympics on Thursday and then dedicated it to the woman who pioneered the sport at this level.

Bowman dedicates gold medal to halfpipe pioneer

US Maddie Bowman competes in the Women's Freestyle Skiing Halfpipe finals at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park during the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 20, 2014 - by Franck Fife

The 20-year-old scored an impressive 89.00 points to edge out France's Marie Martinod into second but after the competition her thoughts were with former athlete Sarah Burke, who died after a skiing accident in Utah in 2012 at the age of 29.

Canadian Burke was a halfpipe world champion and four-time superpipe X-Games winner.

But she was also known amongst her peers for pushing for the inclusion of her sport in the Olympic programme, which bore fruit at these Games.

But Burke would never be able to take her place at the Olympics as she died following a crash at Park City.

"Gosh, it means so much for us to be able to show the world what our sport is, what we do and what we are," said Bowman. 

"I think we're here to make our parents proud, our friends proud and especially Sarah Burke proud, because she is here with us.

"I think her lasting legacy is just to go out, ski as hard as you can, love what you do and love life. Sarah did that. 

"She was an amazing skier but she was an amazing person. I think every girl here would embody that and it takes all of us to put on her shoes."

Japan's Ayana Onozuka took bronze to keep world champion Virginie Faivre of Switzerland off the podium.

Martinod, 29, revealed that Burke was one of the main reasons she came back to the sport two years ago having originally retired to start a family.

"I came back to compete at the Olympic Games because one night Virginie (Faivre) and Sarah Burke came to my place and told me that halfpipe is going to be in the Olympics for sure, you have to come. 

"I said 'you're kidding me, that's nonsense, I'll never be able to do it'. But then I thought I can't watch it on the couch on television."

Onozuka, 25, said she could barely believe her result.

"I can't believe that I have got a third place. I was nervous the whole day and I couldn't concentrate, but I tried not to worry about it."

Bowman's victory ensured the US is still in contention to overtake Canada in the final freestyle skiing rankings at these Games with just the women's ski cross to come on Friday.

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