Snow and Olympic gold for Canada make re­turn visit to Cy­press Moun­tain


VAN­COU­VER — Two things hap­pened Tues­day that Van­cou­ver Olympic or­ga­niz­ers might have liked to see more of: snow at Cy­press Moun­tain and a gold medal for Canada.

Ski-cross racer Ash­leigh McIvor, 26, of Whistler, B.C., em­braced the woolly, white-out con­di­tions and dom­i­nated the day, sail­ing ef­fort­lessly over the jumps in a well-ex­e­cuted se­ries of qual­i­fy­ing runs be­fore lead­ing wire to wire in the fi­nal.

“I just felt re­ally comfortable, and at home, ob­vi­ously, and it’s a good at­mos­phere for me,” said McIvor, now the first-ever women’s Olympic ski cross cham­pion af­ter winning the sport’s Games de­but at Cy­press.

“I was pretty calm the whole way through, and just looking for­ward to each run. I was like, ‘Let me go, let me go.’”

The victory gives Canada six gold medals, to go along with four sil­ver and one bronze.

Hedda Berntsen of Nor­way won sil­ver while Mar­ion Josserand of France took the bronze. Kelsey Serwa of Kelowna, B.C., just missed mak­ing the fi­nal, but won the con­so­la­tion fi­nal for an over­all fifth-place fin­ish.

Ju­lia Mur­ray of Whistler, B.C., fin­ished 12th; Danielle Po­leschuk of Win­nipeg fin­ished 19th.

McIvor is the de­fend­ing world cham­pion and won a World Cup sil­ver medal on the Cy­press course just over a year ago. She is ranked sec­ond in the World Cup stand­ings.

Ski cross is a high-drama thrill ride that takes place on a course akin to a mo­tocross track on the side of a moun­tain. Four skiers bash el­bows and catch mas­sive air as they rip down a track lit­tered with huge jumps and turns. First over the line is the win­ner.

That’s pro­vided they make it to the bot­tom.

Action was tem­po­rar­ily halted Tues­day af­ter Rus­sia’s Yu­lia Livin­skaya crashed hard dur­ing the first heat of the elim­i­na­tion round.

Livin­skaya, who qual­i­fied last in the 32-skier field, lost her bal­ance in the air and landed awk­wardly, slid­ing an­other five me­tres on her side be­fore com­ing to a stop. Medics at­tended to her im­me­di­ately. De­tails of her con­di­tion were not im­me­di­ately known.

In qual­i­fy­ing, Ruxan­dra Nedelcu of Ro­ma­nia, who trains in North Van­cou­ver, crashed heav­ily com­ing off the last jump and was also taken off the hill on a stretcher with an ap­par­ent leg in­jury.

She gave a thumbs-up to the crowd as she was taken away.

With the ski cross out of the way, Cana­dian sports fans were free to fo­cus on the day’s main event — the men’s hockey qual­i­fier pit­ting Team Canada against Ger­many with home­town goal­tender Roberto Luongo in net.

Team Canada got back on track, thump­ing Ger­many 8-2 in a play­off to ad­vance to a quar­ter­fi­nal to­day against pow­er­ful Rus­sia.

Ski-cross gold medal­list Cana­dian Ash­leigh McIvor poses with her medal dur­ing the medals cer­e­mony in Van­cou­ver, B.C. Tues­day.

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