It hasn't exactly been a season to remember for Mackenzie Wilson.
At least, not up until this point.
The 16-year-old halfpipe skier has been hindered by injury to this season, but after returning to the slopes this weekend, the Whistlerite has a little something to look forward to. Wilson was recently informed that she would represent Canada at the Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway beginning Feb. 12.
"I'm so excited to go. I guess I've kind of represented Canada before at competitions when I'm competing internationally, but I've never worn a Team Canada uniform or anything, actually really representing my country on a team," she said. "I was pretty lucky it ended up being me."
However, the Games will be a test for Wilson in more ways than one, as it will be her first competition back after an injury that has kept her out of action, apart from a surprise showing in FIS World Cup action in Cardrona, New Zealand in August.
"This season's had a bit of a rough start. I was in Colorado training for about three weeks in late November into the start of December. I was supposed to be competing in the U.S. Rev Tour but the day before the competition, in training, I fell and I ended up spraining my MCL and my ankle and also three of the bones in my ankle," she said. "I've been off skis for about a month and a half rehabbing, but I got the go-ahead to ski now.
"(I'll) hopefully figure out how to ski again for the Youth Olympics," she added with a chuckle.
Wilson previously came back from a blown ACL suffered two years ago, but being a late-season injury, she had time over the summer to recover.
"This is going to be a pretty quick transition back into skiing and competing, but I've been working hard on my rehab and I think I'll be ready," she said.
Making it this far was a bit of a surprise, as Canada was not guaranteed a spot and Wilson wasn't necessarily a shoo-in to take it if one were granted. However, her strong showing in New Zealand, where she finished sixth and earned a bounty of FIS points, factored into the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association (CFSA) selecting Wilson for the spot.
"It was a pretty long process. I first found out about the Youth Olympics in November when I was in New Zealand but CFSA made it really clear that this was just a potential opportunity. It wouldn't really be likely that I'd be able to go because Canada would get a maximum of one spot per gender. It was a longshot sort of thing, but I filled out all of the paperwork," she said. "I didn't find out until the 19th of January that I was going."
CFSA high-performance program director David Mirota said since Wilson doesn't have tons of experience on the international scene, her participation will be a useful measuring stick.
"At that age level, it's tough to understand where she sits from an international perspective," he said. "She could be on the podium or eighth with her best.
"It's tough to assess where she sits in her age category worldwide."
Mirota said Wilson is in the organization's pipeline for the 2022 Winter Olympics, but could use events like these as a springboard to perhaps convince them to fast-track her for 2018.
"The experience that they'll get at the Youth Olympic Games is huge just from the multisport perspective, similar to Canada Winter Games," he said. "It could be a source for them competing overseas."
Being her first time on the continent and coming off the injury, Wilson is keeping her expectations tempered, but hopes to impress on the big stage.
"I just want to take in everything. I've never been to Europe before," she said. "I want to experience as much as I can and meet new people. I just want to do my best and have fun and see where that takes me."
Other Sea to Sky athletes set to go to the Games are mono-bobsleigh athlete Parker Reid, single luger Reid Watts and the doubles luge team of Matt Riddle and Adam Shippit. Lugers Veronica Ravenna and Lucas Gebauer-Barrett live in the region but will represent Argentina and Great Britain, respectively.
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