“Standing in the starting gate, I was thinking that everything that’s happened in my life has led up to this moment.”
Here is that moment: In low visibility caused by driving snow, Ashleigh McIvor won Olympic gold in ski cross. She burst out of the gate to lead start to finish. She pulled to a stop at the bottom of Cypress, smiling before an army of fans cheering on Canada’s sixth gold medallist of the 2010 Games. And with that McIvor, the 2009 world champion became Olympic champion.
The Whistler native, born in Vancouver, won gold in her own backyard, much like snowboard cross athlete Maëlle Ricker did last week at Cypress. In fact, McIvor indicated after the race that she took something from her fellow gold medallist’s performance.
“I was thinking about what Maëlle Ricker said, she was just focusing on exploding out of the start,” McIvor said. “Thank you, Maëlle.”
As the sport is new to the Olympic program, McIvor becomes its first ladies champion. On Sunday, her men’s teammate Chris Del Bosco finished fourth after a late crash in the final. On Tuesday, Kelsey Serwa just barely missed making the final, as she was edged by less than a foot at the finish line of the semifinal, finishing third. She wound up fifth after determinably winning the small final. Julia Murray reached the quarter-finals and Danielle Poleschuk the 1/8th finals.
McIvor, 26, won World Cup silver on this course last season. Four of her eight career World Cup medals came this year, ranking her No. 2 heading into Vancouver. The much-respected and very skilled No. 1 skier, France’s Ophelie David, crashed in the quarter-finals.
McIvor’s impression is that of an energetic free spirit, a fun-loving athlete who just happens to be high performance. At age 16, she switched to ski cross from alpine, drawn by the former’s blend of open terrain, speed and unbridled fun.
In a July 2009 interview, McIvor said of the coming 2010 Games: “I don’t want to have any regrets after it all. I’m going to give it my best and hopefully it works out.”