Freestyle Skiing

Kate Pettersen - Thursday Feb. 20, 2014 17:07 ET

Kelsey Serwa wants Sochi ski cross win 'so badly'

All 3 Canadian women skiing for Nik Zoricic

Kelsey Serwa, of Kelowna, BC., finished the 2013 season with three World Cup podium finishes including two wins and finished 5th at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver. Serwa looks to earn a spot on the ski cross team in Sochi. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

The Canadian women’s ski cross team will be even more fired up than normal when they compete on Friday in Sochi after watching teammate Brady Leman of Calgary, Alta., narrowly miss the podium in the men’s event.

Kelsey Serwa of Kelowna, B.C., knows the feeling after coming close to the Olympic podium when she finished fifth at the 2010 Games in Vancouver.

“I went out there and I wanted to win so badly,” she said. “Ashleigh (McIvor) was on the podium, we got a gold medal for Canada in ski cross in its (Olympic) debut, but I would have killed to be standing up there beside her.”

Serwa, 24, tore her anterior cruciate ligament in March during a training run at world championships in Voss, Norway, ending her 2013 season early. After surgery and an extensive rehabilitation process, she returned to competition in December, finished fifth at a World Cup in Nakiska, Alta., and won silver two weeks later in Innichen, Italy.

Despite battling multiple knee injuries throughout her career, Serwa feels ready for the course in Sochi and knows she has what it takes to win.

“It’s a big track and big features and you're not sure what the speeds are going to be like,” she said. “It's just overcoming that fear to be able to pull out the gate and throw yourself down the course.

“I want to perform well and I know I can perform well. At one point I've beaten every single one of those girls more than once, so why not do it in Russia?”

Youngster on the medal hunt

Marielle Thompson of Whistler, B.C., was just 17 when she watched Ashleigh McIvor win the first Olympic gold medal in ski cross history at the Vancouver Games. Since then, the 21-year-old has become a dominant force on the World Cup circuit winning silver at world championships in Voss, Norway, in March.

This season Thompson has already celebrated four podium finishes, including two victories, and leads the overall World Cup standings. Despite her recent success, she knows the competition will be fierce on race day.

“Really anyone in the top 10 on any day on our women’s side can be a threat for the podium,” said Thompson. “Everyone in the top few women is really great and is a competitor on any day.

“I just try to not think about it so much and try to just deal with what I can deal with. I just need to stay in my zone and focus on what I can control and not what I can’t.”

While she hopes to stay calm, cool, and collected ahead of Friday’s race, Thompson can’t help but feel excited about the opportunity she’s been given.

“To be one of the athletes for Canada would is just unreal,” said Thompson. “It’s been a dream since I was super little so I’m really, really looking forward to representing my country and hopefully making them proud.

“I’m always aiming for the podium.”

Three talented teammates

Joining Serwa and Thompson in the start gate is Georgia Simmerling of West Vancouver, B.C. The 24-year-old made her Olympic debut at the 2010 Games in alpine skiing. She finished 27th overall in the women’s super-G but made the switch to ski cross in 2011.

Simmerling has had a consistent season finishing in the top 10 at five World Cup races, including a sixth-place finish in Kreischberg, Austria, at the end of January.

Skiing for Nik

The three Canadian ladies of ski cross will race proudly on Friday but with heavy hearts thinking of their former teammate Nik Zoricic, who died from head injuries suffered in a crash during a World Cup ski cross race in Switzerland in March 2012.

“Losing Nick was the hardest thing that I've ever gone through,” said Serwa.

The team vowed to “Ski for Nik” and while IOC regulations prevent them from wearing stickers on race day, his presence will certainly be felt on the hill.

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