Mountain of injuries can't stop Serwa from reaching podium

Canadian silver medallist Kelsey Serwa jumps during the medal ceremony for the women's skicross...

Canadian silver medallist Kelsey Serwa jumps during the medal ceremony for the women's skicross event at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Feb. 21, 2014. (SHAMIL ZHUMATOV/Reuters)

Steve Buffery, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:46 AM ET

SOCHI, RUSSIA - It was a subtle gesture, but one that spoke volumes.

As Kelsey Serwa was being interviewed a day after winning her silver medal in women's ski cross -- crossing the line just behind teammate Marielle Thompson -- she slowly backed up and sat down on a table. It was important to get off her feet as her left knee was not feeling well at all.

"Since the race, we've been running around, I haven't had any treatment on it," said the Kelowna, B.C. native. "I was telling Mar (Marielle), it feels like Rice Krispies right now. It's just like snap, crackle, pop everytime I move it. I'm so glad it held up yesterday."

The side story to Canada's gold-silver finish in women's ski cross on Friday is the fact that Serwa, the 2011 world ski cross champion, almost didn't make it to the Olympic starting gate. She had surgery on her left knee in March after tearing the anterior cruciate. A year earlier, she ruptured the ACL in the same knee. And then just over a month ago, she re-injured the same knee it in Val Thorens, France and had to fly back to Canada for a consultation and physio.

"I went home and I got an MRI and fortunately the ligaments are really strong and the repair's solid," she said. "But I just did some more damage to my bone and have some arthritis growing in there already and chipped some cartilage and split my lateral meniscus. So, yeah, I just needed time.

"It's a work in progress for me. It's daily," added the 24-year-old racer.

The Olympics were, in fact, Serwa's first competition since hurting her knee in France and will now take the rest of the season off to give it a chance to heal.

There was a good chance when she had her knee surgery in March that she wasn't going to make it in time for the Sochi Olympics. The first time she went under the knife for her knee, in 2012, she wasn't on snow for eight months.

"This time I didn't have eight months, I had six months, so I was on snow and racing as soon as I could," she said.

What Serwa needed was a way to accelerate her recovery. Thanks to some special Own The Podium funding, she found it, starting with a cardio camp a couple of months after her surgery in Maui, Hawaii. She travelled with a team physio therapist.

"It was a road biking camp, just to refresh my mind and get me fired up again," she said. "We did road biking, paddle boarding, we hit the gym every day."

And then in the summer, she needed to find a place where she could get on snow, but without the dangers of a mountain course. So Serwa, along with a team physio and a coach, travelled to a place called Snowworld in Landgraff, the Netherlands, again with the help of "special" OTP funding.

"Because I was so tight on time we wanted to go somewhere where I was guaranteed I was going to get the days I needed on snow," she said. "But it was down to the wire before the first (Word Cup) race of the season."

Serwa described Snowworld as a giant indoor hockey arena, built on a hill, with a gym and all the training facilities she needed.

"It was like being in West Edmonton Mall," she said, with a laugh. "I never had to go outside."

Though she's only 24, because of all her injuries (which includes a broken back, a broken wrist, a fractured and bruised heel, bruised ribs, a bruised lung, and a concussion, Serwa's not sure what her future with the ski cross team will be.

"Right now my focus is just to get 100% healthy," she said. "As long as I'm having fun and staying strong and healthy then I don't see a reason to quit.

"I'd just like to avoid anything evasive for the rest of my life if possible, and the good way to do that is to make sure this heals well and I stay strong."

steve.buffery@sunmedia.ca

twitter @beezersun

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