Olympic champ rid­ing high

Sharpe fin­ished first in qual­i­fy­ing at first event of World Cup sea­son

The Sun Times (Owen Sound) - - SPORTS - MELISSA COUTO

Cassie Sharpe gained a boost in pop­u­lar­ity this year when she re­turned from Pyeongchang with an Olympic gold medal.

The half­pipe ski­ing cham­pion was name-dropped in a tweet by Cana­dian ac­tor and Dead­pool star Ryan Reynolds, saw a lit­tle girl dressed up as her for Hal­loween, and even got her face on a pair of socks owned by the prime min­is­ter.

Sharpe, who daz­zled on the Pyeongchang pipe, nail­ing jump after jump en route to her first-place fin­ish, gave Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau the spe­cial socks dur­ing a meet and greet at Par­lia­ment Hill with other Olympic medal­lists in May.

The idea orig­i­nated after the Com ox, B.C., skier saw socks adorned with Trudeau’s face on them in a tourist shop in Van­cou­ver and bought them to wear to the meet­ing.

“I told one of my friends about it and she was like: ‘you should get socks with your face on them and give them to him.’ So yeah, I gave the prime min­is­ter socks with my face on them,” Sharpe said with a laugh in a phone in­ter­view.

“I or­dered these stupid socks and when I met him I gave them to him and he was like: ‘oh my gosh this is so funny.’

“He said peo­ple al­ways give him stuff with his face on them so I was like: ‘you know what? Funny you should say that,’ and I pulled up my pant leg and showed him my socks with his face on them.”

The visit to the Cana­dian cap­i­tal was just one of the high­lights for Sharpe in a sum­mer that also saw her take some much-needed time to her­self after years of vir­tu­ally non-stop train­ing for her Olympic de­but.

She went to Mex­ico, Dis­ney World and Ja­pan over a three-month break. Now that she’s back on snow in the Colorado moun­tains, Sharpe is ready to de­fend her World Cup points ti­tle at her sea­son-open­ing event at Cop­per Moun­tain.

Sharpe fin­ished first in qual­i­fy­ing runs Wed­nes­day for the week­end’s com­pe­ti­tion with 93.75 points. Fel­low Cana­dian Rachael Karker will also com­pete in the fi­nal after qual­i­fy­ing in fourth place.

Cop­per Moun­tain has tra­di­tion­ally proved a tough event for Sharpe, who called the half pipe there her“neme­sis .” Three years ago she took a tum­ble on the Cop­per Moun­tain course while do­ing one of her eas­ier tricks and has had trou­ble turn­ing off those nega­tive feel­ings as­so­ci­ated with it since.

“I think com­ing into last year I was only think­ing about that (fall) and I wasn’t ag­gres­sive, I wasn’t en­joy­ing ski­ing it, I had so much on the back of my mind,” said Sharpe, who’s spent the last few weeks train­ing in Aus­tria for the up­com­ing sea­son.

“I think this year com­ing into it I’ve tried to only have pos­i­tiv­ity about it and not dwell on some­thing that hap­pened three sea­sons ago. We’ ll see how it goes, but I’ m def­i­nitely try­ing to emote more pos­i­tive vibes to­ward this pipe.”

Sharpe capped the 2017-18 half­pipe cam­paign with a World Cup vic­tory in France a month after win­ning Olympic gold. The 26-year-old won two other World Cup com­pe­ti­tions last year and added to her medal haul with a Dew Tour gold and an X Games bronze.

While the next Olympic Games is still three years away, Sharpe said she’ s not tak­ing it any eas­ier this sea­son. The pres­sure to main­tain her top rank­ing is serv­ing as her mo­ti­va­tion.

“I def­i­nitely feel the pres­sure of be­ing the ath­lete on top,” Sharpe said. “I feel like it’s more per­form­ing on de­mand — like I have to al­ways be on and ski­ing my best to main­tain that spot and that pres­sure and ex­pec­ta­tion that I’ m go­ing to do that. That’s what I feel more, but I’m for sure my worst critic. I’m the per­son who pushes my­self the most.

“My fam­ily, my coaches, my team, no one is putting that pres­sure on me. So I’m try­ing to just be more pos­i­tive and go out there with a more fun (at­ti­tude) in­stead of that heavy, com­pet­i­tive vibe all the time.

“I just want to have fun with this sea­son.”

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