Canada made ski cross history Friday by winning double gold and a silver at the 2011 FIS Freestyle World Championships.
Kelsey Serwa, of Kelowna, B.C., climbed off the physio’s table to capture gold in the women’s ski cross final at Deer Valley, with teammate Julia Murray, of Whistler, B.C., sealing silver. Chris Del Bosco, of Sudbury, Ont., followed that up by pulling off a breathtaking move in the men’s final to surge into first and secure double gold for Canada.
“I couldn’t get out of bed two days ago and I didn’t expect to win here,” said a jubilant Serwa, who was injured en route to winning gold at the X Games last weekend when she lost control on the last jump and crossed the finish line on her back. “I couldn’t be happier right now.”
Murray, who hurt her knee and needed four stitches in her chin after also crashing at the X Games, kept her cool during a hard-fought women’s final to take second place ahead of Anna Holmlund of Sweden.
“I’m really excited,” she said. “I’ve been struggling with my knee all year and I hurt it again last week. I really didn’t expect to podium.”
Del Bosco, who had to settle for silver at the X Games and was fourth at the 2010 Winter Olympics, was lying second in the men’s final and feared the worst.
“I was starting to wonder about these one-day big show finals,” said Del Bosco, who was lying just behind Austria’s Andreas Matt. “I thought, ‘Oh, man, I’m not going to let him win another race.’ He just left the door open a little bit and I took it. It’s amazing.”
Del Bosco finished ahead of Finland’s Jouni Pellinen and Matt. Tomas Kraus, of the Czech Republic, was fourth.
“From the beginning we wanted to make sure we put the best program in the world in place,” said Eric Archer, Canada’s head coach. “It’s up to the athletes to take advantage. Today proves they are working hard. That’s phenomenal.”
Archer said Serwa showed great courage and determination to battle through three rounds before going on to win the final.
“As an ex-racer, I can tell you that the adrenaline kicks in when you get in the start gate. That’s a big pain reliever,” said Archer. “I can’t believe she pulled it off.”
Canada had a lucky charm on site at Deer Valley in the form of 2009 world champion and Olympic gold medalist Ashleigh McIvor.
The Whistler, B.C. skier, who suffered a season-ending knee injury at the X Games last week, said she was “living vicariously” through her teammates.
“I’m completely ecstatic, I’ve been crying, I’m so happy,” said McIvor. “I’m just so proud of them.
“And just for the record, I called it in my interview with NBC – all three of them,” added McIvor, referring to Serwa, Murray and Del Bosco winning medals.
Whistler’s Davey Barr was third in the small final and seventh overall, while Toronto’s Nik Zoricic – who was unlucky to be drawn in a tough semi-final with Del Bosco, John Teller of the USA and Kraus – was eighth. Dave Duncan, of Golden, B.C., crashed in his first heat and suffered a suspected hand injury. He went to a medical centre for further tests and is awaiting the results.
“It’s a great day for Canada. On any day any one of us can win,” said Barr, who was third at the 2009 world championships in Japan but had a bad start in his semi-final and wasn’t quite able to recover. “In the semis I totally missed my start and that put me in fourth, unfortunately. I wish that Nik and I could have made it into the final.”
On the women’s side, Calgary’s Danielle Poleschuk was eliminated at the quarter-final stage and finished 13th overall. Whistler’s Marielle Thompson was 15th overall.
Canada’s two golds represent the first time a nation has won both the men’s and women’s ski cross events at the Freestyle World Championships.