Nicoll makes fourth Olympic team 

Snowboard-cross racer Bergermann also off to South Korea

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF CANADA SNOWBOARD - SURGING FOURTH Mercedes Nicoll is set to compete at her fourth Winter Olympic Games.
  • Photo courtesy of Canada Snowboard
  • SURGING FOURTH Mercedes Nicoll is set to compete at her fourth Winter Olympic Games.

Mercedes Nicoll acknowledged that she may not have seemed like a three-time Olympian when the snowboard halfpipe and snowboard-cross teams were revealed last week.

But there was a darn good reason for that.

After suffering a concussion at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi and being plagued by its aftereffects for well over a year, the 34-year-old took nothing for granted.

"It feels like the first time because the last four years have been such a journey," she said. "I put so much work into these Games.

"At the first one, I didn't really understand what the Olympics were really about until I fell and I was like 'Oh my gosh, I messed up for all of Canada.' Then it hit me that I was an Olympian and Canada was looking at me.

"This past four years has been, for me, a little selfish because I wanted to get sport back into my life and then realized, sharing my story, how amazing it is to be an Olympian."

Nicoll's December results were strong enough to qualify her for the team, and she's coming into the Olympics after posting her strongest World Cup result of the season, a 12th-place finish in Laax, Switzerland.

"I needed to have a competition before the Games to throw some tricks down and feel comfortable again," she said.

The season has been an odd one, even with the Olympics being considered. Nicoll said early in the season, the halfpipe for the Copper Mountain event wasn't ready until two days before the competition. As well, Canada Snowboard asked athletes for video of themselves completing the minimum standards, including two 540s and a 720.

"We had eight days to get that, so I wasn't super focused on the contest. I was focused on getting the video done, or else we weren't allowed to compete at the next World Cup or go to the Olympics," she said. "I took getting that video as a challenge and it upped my riding and I'm actually glad that it came about because I was riding really well."

In addition to the tricks required in the video, Nicoll also sought to get her backside 900 back, which is the move that felled her in Russia.

"It's been a barrier of mine to get that back. I'm trying to get my riding back to where I feel comfortable and not hesitant," she said. "It's been a big mental battle just to get back into snowboarding, let alone where I was before 2014."

As well, Nicoll was unaware how early she'd punched her ticket to PyeongChang, but with a trip to the Games on the line in her own mind, she's happy she rode well under perceived pressure.

"The next few contests in January were very important, but there wasn't too much communication. I'd already qualified, so I didn't need to worry," she said. "I find I ride a lot better under pressure."

Nicoll was 17th in the Olympic test event last season and enjoyed the site and the culture.

"It's a pretty cool place to be. It's funny because the hill is just that. It's a little hill with hotels at the bottom of it," she said. "The Korean culture somehow is to go skiing late at night. They come from work and they just ski at night."

Nicoll credited the Whistler community with helping her throughout her career and especially the last four years.

Joining Nicoll on the halfpipe team are Derek Livingston, Calynn Irwin and Elizabeth Hosking.

Whistler resident Zoe Bergermann, originally of Erin, Ont., also qualified as part of Canada's snowboard-cross team, joining Baptiste Brochu, Kevin Hill, Chris Robanske, Carle Brenneman, Tess Critchlow and Meryeta O'Dine.

Lastly, Jasey-Jay Anderson and Darren Gardner will compete in parallel giant slalom.

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