Onward and Upward 

Olympic champion Ashleigh McIvor retires to save knee, pursue other career goals in skiing

click to enlarge What a career
  • What a career

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That said, McIvor is confident that the team will continue to win without her. "I do my absolute best to share what it is that has made me successful with my teammates," she said. "I think a lot of it is transferable, and we work well together as a team. That's why we are the number one team in the world. I have every confidence that Canada will bring another ski cross medal home from Russia in 2014."

With McIvor and Murray out, the death of Nik Zoricic in competition last season, Davey Barr retiring and Stan Rey switching to big mountain, the ranks of veteran team members has shrunk considerably in recent years. As well, rookie Georgia Simmerling was injured last season before she even had an opportunity to race at the highest level.

However, despite the loss of athletes the team continues to be strong with world champion and 2011 X Games champion Kelsey Serwa returning, Danielle Sundquist (formerly Poleschuk) off the injury list, and Whistler's Marielle Thompson — who won the overall World Cup title in 2012 on only her second season on the tour — stepping up in a huge way. The men's team includes four athletes with podiums to their credit — Chris Del Bosco (injured), Dave Duncan, Brady Leman and Tristan Tafel — and has a strong group of prospects including former alpine skier Louis-Pierre Helie and Whistler's Robert Lepine.

Coach Willy Raine respected McIvor's decision: "She's won the Olympics, she's won a world championship and she's won a World Cup. She's been a leader — she's been there since Day One. To be part of the team and watch her win in Vancouver was incredible. I'm definitely going to miss her being part of the team. The sky's the limit for her."

The World Cup ski cross season gets underway at Nakiska, Alberta on Dec. 7-8, before heading down to the Telluride, Colorado. There are two more races in Europe before Christmas, and then three more races in Europe before the tour heads to Sochi, Russia for the official Olympic test event. The four following events are all in Europe.

As well, the world championship in Norway from Mar. 5-10 is a big deal for Canadian skiers this year as an opportunity to lock up spots in the 2014 Olympics, and to qualify for full Sport Canada funding. X Games also continues to be a big draw for top athletes, taking place from Jan. 24-27 in Aspen, Colorado, and most athletes will make the trip back from Europe to take part.

It was revealed this week that ski cross team member Chris Del Bosco has been injured in training, requiring shoulder surgery. For more, see page 80.

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