Many memories started pouring in from fans across the nation recently when news spread of 2010 Ski-Cross gold medal-winner Ashleigh McIvor’s impending retirement from competitive racing. But it wasn’t that long ago that McIvor was creating those memories and inspiring a nation with her own dreams.
“It means the world to me to have had success in the Olympic debut of our sport, at home,” she said. “I couldn’t have dreamed it up better myself.”
The stars had aligned for McIvor when the sport of Ski Cross made its Olympic Games debut at the 2010 Winter Games. The native of Whistler, British Colombia had been excelling on the world tour leading up to the Vancouver.
2009 was indeed a good year for McIvor. Three World Cup podium finishes were precursors to a World Championship victory in Inawashiro, Japan in March of that year. Seemingly peaking at the right time, McIvor had the opportunity of a lifetime ahead of her to make an impact on home soil and in the province she grew up in.
Expectations were high for McIvor after she captured another three World Cup podium finishes one month before the Opening Ceremonies. The opportunity to create magic would be in the back of her mind as she took to the hills of Cypress Mountain in West Vancouver.
“One of my friends wrote ‘savour every moment’ on my Facebook wall,” said McIvor of the advice given to her ahead of her for Olympic experience. “I just kept playing those words in my head and thinking to embrace this mom and that I’d never feel this nervous for anything again.”
And with a sprint to the finish line, McIvor edged out Norway’s Hedda Bernsten and France’s Marion Josserand to grab gold on the twelfth day of competition of her first Olympic Games. A spot in the history book would forever be reserved for the first female gold medallist in the history of Ski Cross.
With the win McIvor’s popularity soared to new heights and a new fan base was established for the bubbly and outgoing superstar.
Over two and a half years after reaching her dreams, McIvor has decided to retire from competitive ski racing to pursue other opportunities.
“This has been the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make in my life,” said McIvor of the announcement.
“I’ve gone back and forth in my mind, wondering if I’m making the right decision to retire. But I’ve already done more in the sport than I ever imagined would be possible. And there’s something to be said for going out on top – as the reigning Olympic champion.”
The recovery from the torn anterior cruciate ligament sustained in her left knee in January of 2011 was among the reasons for her decisions.
“My knee is still on the mend and I would be trying to push it to get results this season and put myself in a position to perform at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia,” McIvor said. “I’ve decided that it’s more important to me to be able to ski recreationally – now and for the rest of my life. I have career opportunities that are time sensitive and a great life outside of racing.”
Mcivor will not have a shortage of new opportunities on her doorstep during the next phase of her life. The 5’10 blonde has already strolled down the runways of the fashion scene as a model and has been a spokesperson for numerous causes.
Her work has been publish by some of the world’s top fashion photographers and she has modeled in New York and starred in major advertising campaigns.
“The timing works, as far as making the transition to the next phase of my career – making the most of the opportunities that have presented themselves based on the success I’ve had as a ski cross athlete,” said McIvor, who plans to free ski and continue working with sponsors.
“I look forward to continuing to represent my partners and sponsors in the media, working with photographers and enjoying skiing in its purest form without the pressure of competition. I will continue to cheer for my teammates. I have always been their biggest fan – even when racing against them.”
McIvor’s impact on the sport goes without questioning. She has been a pioneer and a role model for many female skiers during a Ski Cross career that started in 2007 and saw her rack up 11 World Cup podiums.
She has paved the way for a set of new stars like Kelsey Serwa, of Kelowna, B.C. – the reigning world champion – and fellow Whistler skier Marielle Thompson – the overall women’s ski cross World Cup champion.
“Ashleigh’s definitely given the sport of ski cross a face in Canada,” said Brady Leman, the number two ranked ski cross racer in the world. “Her win in Vancouver was huge for our sport. It put a big exclamation point on ski cross being the newest alpine ski sport and something to watch.
“She had a lot of great results over the years and she was always a really fun teammate to have on the road. She was always having fun, which was a little bit of a breath of fresh air. It was awesome to see her get so much recognition for what she’s done.”
McIvor says she will continue to learn from her great career and from all her accomplishments.
“My career has taught me a lot about perseverance and chasing your dreams – tackling your goals one step at a time and avoiding getting too overwhelmed by that end result that you’re hoping for,” said McIvor who is also planning a wedding to Vacouver Whitecaps captain Jay DeMerit.
“Working with a team has taught me a lot about group dynamics and relationships and has allowed me to make lifelong friendships and create memories that I will cherish forever.”