By Philip O'Connor
ROSA KHUTOR, Russia (Reuters) - The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has banned athletes from wearing stickers in memory of freestyle skiing pioneer Sarah Burke but she was not far from their thoughts on Tuesday as slopestyle made its Winter Games debut.
Canadian medalists Dara Howell and Kim Lamarre both paid tribute to Burke, who died in a training accident in January 2012, with the latter saying she had felt their former team mate's presence during her bronze medal-winning run.
"She was with me today. I totally felt her. She's amazing and I'm happy to honor who she was by doing this today," Lamarre told Reuters.
"Before I dropped my last run in the final, I looked up to the sky and said 'come on Sarah, we can do this together. Carry me through down.'"
Howell won gold after a superb first run, with American Devin Logan taking the silver medal.
"I said earlier this week that I hope maybe a Canadian can bring home a gold medal and it'll definitely be for Sarah," Howell told a news conference following her victory.
"Sitting up here today, being that person, I can't even believe it. She was such an inspiration to me and everyone else in free skiing, I just think that she would be so proud and happy. It's truly an honor."
Burke was a freestyle skiing halfpipe world champion, who successfully lobbied for the event to be included in the Olympics.
Lamarre earlier told Reuters the athletes were disappointed by the IOC decision to ban the helmet stickers commemorating Burke under the rules forbidding political statements.
"Of course, we would have loved to have our stickers. I made sure after every run to say 'celebrate Sarah' in front of the camera," she said.
"We're definitely going to figure out a way that we can celebrate her without making the IOC unhappy."
(Editing by Ed Osmond/Peter Rutherford)