Sheri Lamb
Prince George Citizen Staff

Kelsey Serwa is determined to regain her world No. 1 ranking in the snowcross World Cup after an injury ended her 2012 season prematurely.

The 22-year-old from Kelowna was displaced from the top spot after suffering a torn ACL in her left knee during the final race of a World Cup event Jan. 11 in Alpe d’Huez, France.

“My knee feels great,” said Serwa. “I don’t want to rush it too fast, but as long as it’s doing well I’ll be able to race next season.

“I kind of did a flat spin, 360 and landed on the flats [as opposed to on the down slope so the impact was greater],” she added. “That ended my season. The start of the season was great. I won two races back to back and was heading for the podium in the race that I crashed in.”

The 2010 Winter Olympian was in Prince George on a different type of podium Friday, delivering an inspirational speech at the third annual Fan the Flame dinner at the Coast Inn of the North put on by PacificSport Northern B.C.

Snowcross athletes compete in one of four heats with the top two finishers in each moving on to the medal competition. Serwa made the switch to snowcross from the alpine circuit, where she was a national development team member, in 2008, because she wanted “something more exciting.”

In 2011, Serwa skied to the world championship in snowcross and was the X Games gold medalist.

After having surgery on her anterior cruciate ligament in January, Serwa was in her home province rehabbing it when one of her teammates and close friends suffered a fatal crash March 10.

Two months later, Serwa still gets choked up when talking about former snowcross teammate Nik Zoricic’s crash at the finish line of a World Cup race in Grindelwald, Switzerland.

Serwa said a friend from the team on the east coast sent her a text message at 3 a.m. with the news of Zoricic’s crash.

“After that I was just talking to everyone and trying to figure out what was going on,” said Serwa, her eyes moist. “No event in sport should an accident result in death.”

Since Zoricic’s death there has been questions as to whether the course is safe. Serwa said she raced at the Grindelwald course in 2011 and there was nothing out of the ordinary.

“It was fine,” she said. “There’s parts on every course you look at and you’re kind of, ‘Really, what were they thinking?’ But nothing stood out and by the sounds of it nothing stood out to any of the athletes or any of the coaches this year.”

Her injury and the death of her friend hasn’t dulled Serwa’s enthusiasm for her sport.

“I don’t fear getting back on the slopes,” said Serwa, granddaughter of Cliff Serwa, the former B.C. Social Credit MLA from 1986 to 1996. “Nik wouldn’t want us to live life that way.”

Serwa’s perseverance to overcome setbacks was the message she tried to get across to the young athletes at the Fan the Flame event.

“If you fail at something you have to go out there and try it again otherwise you kind of live life regretting and not knowing if you could’ve done it or not,” said Serwa, the fifth-place ladies snowcross finisher in Whistler in 2010. In addition to reclaiming her title as No. 1 in the world, Serwa said she wants to use what she learned in 2010 at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.