Peter Brooker / Rex USA
Kathy Ehrich Dowd
April 16, 2013 07:15 PM

Splash contestant Rory Bushfield projects fearlessness on the diving board and on the slopes, but on the show this week the professional extreme skier exposes his vulnerable side as he opens up about the death of his wife, acclaimed freestyle skier Sarah Burke.

Burke, 29, died last January after a crash at the bottom of a superpipe during a training run in Park City, Utah. The couple had married in 2010.

“My life’s changed drastically,” Rory, choking up, says in a clip of the show (watch below). “I lost my wife. I had it all. I still have a lot. I’m thankful for everything I have, but I had it all.”

His devotion to his wife palpable, Bushfield is not afraid to hide his grief while also praising her as a pioneer who “was leaps and bounds beyond everyone else in her sport.”

“Sarah was my dream girl before she knew who I was,” he says. “A lot of the craziest things I ever did were just kind of to impress Sarah.”

Case in point: He proposed by spelling out “Marry Me Sarah” in rocks in a remote snow-covered field near Whistler, then flew her over the field to see it, according to his Splash bio.

Now, as a contestant on ABC’s celebrity diving competition, Bushfield knows exactly what Sarah would say to buck him up before a big dive.

“If Sarah was here she’d tell me to land on my head – and not be a baby,” says Bushfield, who is competing with a ruptured eardrum – forcing his training to take place on land and not in the water.

“When I talk to Sarah, I look up,” he says. “This week I’m going to do a front one-and-a-half, land on my head, and prove to Sarah I’m not a baby. I can do this.”

Splash airs Tuesdays (8 p.m. ET) on ABC.

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