McIvor earns straight As in ski cross

By STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency

WEST VANCOUVER — When Ashleigh McIvor was a student at the University of British Columbia, she wrote an essay about why ski cross should be an Olympic event.

“And I actually found some very good, viable reasons,” she said.

She got an A, but of course had no way of knowing that just a few years later, ski cross would be added to the Olympic Games and she would be the first-ever women’s champion.

Standing on top of the podium Tuesday with snow flurries whipping across the Cypress Mountain course, McIvor raised her arms to the cheering crowd of 4,384, many of whom waved Canadian flags.

The defending world champion, who carried the weight of the Canadian ski-cross program on her shoulders, grabbed the lead in every single heat and pumped her arms triumphantly as she crossed the finish line ahead of Hedda Berntsen of Norway and Marion Josserand of France in the final.

McIvor had long established herself as one of the top ski-cross racers in the world and at these Games, contested not far from her hometown of Whistler, the sport’s newest superstar had a feeling that despite the unforgiving, unpredictable nature of the sport, she was going to grab the gold .

“It’s weird. This is the only race of my life when I just felt I was going to win,” McIvor said. “I used to think it was bad to think that way, that I was going to jinx it. But I had a really good feeling about this race.”

McIvor admitted that despite her confidence, she felt added pressure after the Canadian ski-cross team had largely disappointed at Cypress.

Canada came into these Games as the No.1-ranked team in the world. But the men, including her boyfriend, Chris Del Bosco, failed to earn a medal, Del Bosco crashing agonizingly close to the finish line while he was in third place.

“It was all in waves for me,” she said of the pressure. “I had times when I’d be like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is a big job. This is really nerve-racking.’ But I didn’t need to worry about that. I got up there and the nerves didn’t really set in to the point where it was a negative thing.”

McIvor said she took some inspiration before the race from snowboard cross champion Maelle Ricker, another local girl who rose to the occasion at these Olympics.

Though she’s just 26, it’s been a tough road to Olympic stardom McIvor. Since 2003, she has overcome numerous injuries, including constant dislocated shoulders. She also tore her anterior cruciate ligament at the 2005 X Games.

In addition, she ripped off a chunk of her humerus bone and had it screwed back together in 2006 and underwent surgery to repair damage to her right shoulder in 2008.

But as she reminded everyone after Tuesday’s race, crashing and injuries are part of ski cross, a motocross-style event that features four skiers flying down a course at the same time.

“Ski cross is the newest form of ski racing, but in essence it’s been around forever — racing your friends from the top of the mountain to the bottom,” she said.

There were two people almost as thrilled as McIvor when she crossed the finish line — her idol, former Canadian ski great Nancy Greene Raine, who jumped up and down in celebration, and Del Bosco, who was still sporting a black eye and cut nose from his spill on Sunday.

Del Bosco said he had a quick moment with McIvor after her race.

“I said to her, ‘You’re awesome,’” he said.

steve.buffery@sunmedia.ca

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