[Editor's note: Writer and skier Sally Francklyn suffered a traumatic brain injury in March 2012. In this series, called Rise Up, Sally is interviewing other people in the freeskiing community who have also been dealt unimaginable hardships and managed to come out on top. Next Monday, she'll interview a pro skier who turned a health issue into an awareness campaign.]
Trennon Paynter is the head coach of the Canadian Ski Halfpipe Team. But to his athletes, he's much more than that: He's a friend who's been there through good times and bad. Sarah Burke was one of Paynter's athletes, back when the Canadian halfpipe team was just a bunch of skiers with big dreams and no official government backing.
When Burke, a six X Games gold medalist and one of the athletes who lobbied to get halfpipe skiing in the Olympic Games, died in January 2012, Paynter's world was forever altered. He lost not only one of his star athletes but also his close friend. But Paynter had to continue doing his job and coaching his team into the biggest season of their careers. With the Sochi Olympic Games just a few months away, we caught up with Paynter to see how he's planning for the winter ahead without Burke by his side.
I love coaching and can't see myself in any other role right now. Part of the passion for me is this whole Olympic idea that I really believed strongly about for so long.
It's such an exciting time in the sport right now with everyone's first Olympic experience approaching.
I'm super lucky to have such a great group of skiers to work with. Not only how good they are as athletes but what they are like as people.
For now, I feel like I'm right where I should be, doing exactly what I should be doing.
On competition days, you get an energy buzz when it's time to ski that's hard to replicate. I do still enter competitions -- ski, bike, even a surf competition once -- but now I'm definitely not as concerned about getting results as I once was.
I miss Sarah Burke's friendship, the positive example that she always set. And her smile, I really miss her smile.
While I certainly hope that I was able to help Sarah be the great skier that she was, I believe that she still would have been the greatest without any of my coaching.
She had a remarkable ability to go through failure without letting it shake her confidence.
I think it was Sarah's work ethic, love of what she was doing, natural talent and style that made her such an incredible athlete.
Saying "Rory Bushfield (Burke's husband) is doing great" somehow doesn't sound right when talking about someone who is coping with a loss of that magnitude. But he's smiling, adventuring up a storm, making people happy and doing all the same kind of awesome stuff that made Sarah fall in love with him in the first place.