Being a world champion at something, at anything, is quite a feather in anyone’s cap. Whether his or her area of expertise be cribbage, stone-skimming, rock-paper-scissors, heavyweight boxing, grape-growing or pipefitting.
The best, on a planet of seven billion inhabitants? Take a bow. A low, deep bow.
“It’s funny,” muses Kelsey Serwa, “but in my eyes I’m still some little squirt from Kelowna that grew up skiing in the mountains with family and friends.
“When you stop to think about it, it’s pretty unbelievable.
“I don’t think of myself as, quote – the best in the world – unquote. Does it sound weird? I guess so. When you hear that, about yourself, it’s like” – she executes a quick shoulder check – “The World Champion? Here? WHERE?!
“But it’s definitely an honour, having that title. It’s sweet. I like it.
“It’s something I hope to hold on to.”
The 2011 women’s world ski cross champion heads into this season in search of another global title, and some personal redemption, after a nasty knee injury incurred on an awkward landing in the finals of a World Cup stop at Alpe d’Huez, France last winter – torn ACL, meniscus damage and slight MCL tear – ended her season prematurely, and Crystal Globe aspirations (she’d opened the season with two victories) as overall World Cup champion.
“All in all, though,” reckons Serwa, “it’s been a good two years, for sure. Especially how I won that World Championship. I crashed at X Games the week before, ended up having two compression fractures in my spine, didn’t know it and raced World Championships a week later, totally bypassing training.
“That’s something I’ll always remember. I still can’t believe I did it. It’s amazing what you can push your body through, how strong your mind can be.”
The knee injury, she admits, has forced a bit of re-jig in her early ambitions.
“My sights are on World Championships, qualifying for the Olympics and hopefully coming home with an Olympic gold medal in 2014. Because of the injury, I’m going to slowly step into it at the start of this season, build confidence and keep taking steps forward. Hopefully it all works out.”
Saturday at Nakiska marks the first World Cup race of the 2012-2013 season and also the first since the tragic death of Canadian teammate Nic Zoricic last March in Grindelwald, Switzerland. Naturally, the issue of safety in ski cross, so heightened because of that crash, is foremost in people’s minds as the curtain rises on another season.
“I don’t focus on what can go wrong in a course,” says Serwa. “I don’t think you can. I just focus on what I have to do when I’m on the course. There’s been a lot of good changes happening, which are needed. Anything we can do to make our sport safer is important. We want more people coming out, wanting to ski cross. We need to build the sport, “But we also know there is calculated risk involved. You’re dealing with yourself and three other people on a course. You can’t plan for anything, because you don’t know what they’re going to do. You can train as thoroughly as possible, take all the precautionary measures but at the end of the day it’s based a lot on instincts and reaction.
There’s calculated risk in everything, right?
“It’s like NASCAR racing. Accidents do happen but we do our best to prevent them.”
A fifth-place finish at the Vancouver Winter Olympic has only whet Serwa’s appetite for the upcoming Games in Sochi. World Champion is a wonderful title to have. But Olympic gold medallist …?
“Of course, it’s always in your mind. I’m trying to keep things the same. You hear about so many people today who’ve been successful training and competing a certain way, then they get to the Olympics and all of sudden they start doing things differently. For what reason?
“Definitely we’re going to be amping up our training and our time on snow, but for the most part we’ll keep our race preparations on and off the hill the same.
“I’ve had four or five goals since I started to ski cross. I wanted to be X Games gold medallist, World Champion, Canadian champion, Olympic gold medallist and win the overall title.
“So far, I’ve got the World Championship, been Canadian champion and the X Games gold.
“So three down, two to go.”
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