Coaches told Burke Alder that he would be a contender in the 2002 Olympics if he would forego a mission and continue skiing. As the second ranked freestyle moguler in the junior division at the time, the prospect could have been tempting.

But Burke knew where to find real gold and, contrary to his coaches, chose to serve a mission.

Upon his return from serving in the Colombia Bogota Mission in 1997-99, he resumed skiing and was commended for his technique that was considered better than those who had continued skiing during his two-year absence.

All appeared to be working in Burke's favor. He was reinstated a member of the U.S. Ski Association even though such permission had never been granted to someone who willingly had left the ski circuit.

He was skiing well and with the Olympics coming to his backyard, where he had skied for years, he conjured notions of winning the gold and becoming the hometown hero.

He remembers, as a youth, attending a ward activity at the Institute adjacent to the University of Utah, and hearing the news that Salt Lake City had been chosen host city for the 2002 Winter Olympics and thinking to himself, "I want to wear the uniform of my country in those Olympics."

At the qualifying meet in Winter Park, Colo., in December 2001, his chances for the Olympics came down to one run. A finish in the top four spots would assure him a spot on the U.S. team.

"You get only one chance," Burke said. "And it was a great run, but not as good as expected." He was only hundreths of a second slower than the first four winners but placed a dismal 19th.

Disappointed, dejected but not demoralized, he reasoned, "I guess the Lord has something else for me to do."

"True champions are those who devote themselves to good causes," he said, referring to his bedroom wall that is a billboard of motivational statements. "Life is 10 percent what happens to you," he continued, "and 90 percent how you react."

Now a student at the University of Utah and a member of the Murray South Ward, Murray Utah South Stake, and working to catch up in school, Burke looks back to see how the ripple of good he accomplished on his mission continues to expand. "Others that I baptized are now serving missions," he said. Elder Dusty Whitney serving in Goiania, Brazil, and an avid skier in his youth, credits Burke with directing him on a mission.

"These are my gold medal moments," Burke said, realizing that what he has in the gospel outweighs what he lost in Olympics.

For the moment, he is content to cheer for Jonny Moseley, the top U.S. mogul's contender who dubbed Burke, "The Mormon Moguler."


E-mail: shaun@desnews.com