There's a different kind of pressure on Ashleigh McIvor at these Olympics.
This time, the retired ski cross star is headed to the Games as a credentialed member of the media rather than as an athlete. And while her reign as Olympic champion officially ends at Sochi, McIvor will be there helping call all of the action for the same Canadian audience that celebrated her gold-medal performance in 2010.
McIvor has joined CBC's broadcast team for the Olympics and will provide colour commentary for ski cross competition. The 30-year-old will also be working as a ski correspondent for Yahoo Sports.
"I'm really looking forward to being at the Olympics without the pressure of competing," McIvor told Pique at last week's Sochi send-off for local Olympians and Paralympians at the Whistler Athletes' Centre.
"Of course, with broadcasting, there's another sort of pressure, but fortunately I'll be speaking about things I know. I'm one of the few experts in the sport — because it's such a new sport, very few people have retired so far," she added with a laugh.
The biggest challenge for McIvor on air might be forgetting that she's no longer a member of the Canadian ski cross team, but rather a part of a neutral play-by-play team with CBC Winnipeg broadcaster Mitch Peacock.
"That's the one thing I'm most nervous about, is containing my emotions for our Canadians," she said. "We can't even call them 'our Canadians,' we have to call them 'Team Canada' or 'the Canadians,' but I'm sure I'll figure it out."
McIvor injured her knee the season after her Olympic triumph while training for the 2011 Winter X Games and never raced again, announcing her retirement from the sport in November 2012. She hasn't been missing it all that much.
"I thought I would be, but I honestly haven't had any regrets since making the decision to retire," said McIvor. "It was a bit of a long, drawn-out, transitional phase for me with trying to recover from my knee injury, and then just realizing that I wanted to move on in life.
"I'd already quit ski racing twice before coming back and winning world championships and winning the Olympics, so I was pretty ready for the next phase. I got to the point where it just wasn't worth the risk anymore."
But while her racing days are behind her, McIvor's years of experience can still be valuable to former teammates like Whistler's Marielle Thompson. After all, there's not another women's ski cross team in the world that has an Olympic gold medallist to turn to for guidance.
Thompson struggled in the first half of last winter but said some of McIvor's advice helped her turn the season around — she went on to silver-medal finishes at both the world championships and the Olympic test event in Sochi — so it would appear that McIvor is still having a positive impact on the team.
"I like to think that I am," she laughed. "I've forced Marielle to go for coffee with me a couple of times.
"It's so interesting to me that Marielle's doing so well, being a Whistler girl with such a similar upbringing to mine and such a similar attitude naturally," McIvor added, as Thompson is closing in on her second World Cup title in three years and heading to Sochi as a podium favourite. "I feel like any insight I can share as to why the Olympics were the best race of my life with her will have some sort of impact and at least help in some sense. I feel like I have a responsibility to do that."
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