Kelsey Serwa wins in Sochi as Canada racks up 3 ski cross medals
Del Bosco, Marielle Thompson also on podium
Canada's ski cross team was having a quiet season by its standards until Tuesday's breakout performance.
Kelsey Serwa of Kelowna, B.C. and Marielle Thompson of Whistler, B.C., claimed gold and silver in a World Cup event in Sochi that also served as a test event for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Montreal's Chris Del Bosco took silver in his first race of the season because of a shoulder injury suffered in training in November.
"The is the best result we've had this season," Serwa said during a conference call. "Once we get the momentum going it's easier to keep it up."
It was the second win of the season for Serwa, the reigning world women's champion who suffered a season-ending knee injury just over a year ago.
Thompson, 20, won the overall World Cup women's title in Serwa's absence last year but hadn't stepped on the podium this season until Tuesday.
"It's really just been qualifying that's tripped me up this season," Thompson said. "By the second round I was really getting dialled in.
"It was really fun. It felt like a ski cross course and when I'm having fun I tend to have success."
Variable, warm weather plagued freestyle and snowboard Olympic test events in Sochi over the last week. Slopestyle in both sports were cancelled.
Fog and heavy snow reduced and delayed training runs for the ski cross racers. Serwa said she grew up racing in those kinds of conditions at Big White in Kelowna.
"It was the perfect training ground when we were young, all of us West Coast kids," she said.
The ski cross heats were pushed to Tuesday morning so it was a long day of four races for Canada's medallists.
Organizers altered the course to incorporate the snowboard track into the ski cross course, according to Canadian coach Eric Archer.
"We're just super happy we were able to get the event off after the weather of the past few days," Archer said.
Ski cross was the last of five scheduled freestyle test events at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, which is 40 kilometres from Sochi.
8 medals overall at Sochi tests
Canadians won eight medals in the four disciplines that were completed, including gold for Serwa and moguls skiers Mikael Kingsbury of Deux-Montagnes, Que.
Calgary's Rosalind Groenewoud and Edmonton's Keltie Hansen were second and third respectively in women's halfpipe. Mike Riddle of Sherwood Park, Alta., was third in men's halfpipe.
Philippe Marquis of Quebec City was third in men's moguls. Olivier Rochon of Gatineau, Que., finished just off the podium in fourth in men's aerials.
The freestyle team is expected to be the country's leading medal producer a year from now in Sochi, where Canada's goal is to finish first in the overall medal count.
The ski cross team is deep in medal contenders. Del Bosco was fourth and Serwa fifth in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C.
Del Bosco, the current men's world champion, separated his shoulder while training in Nakiska, Alta., in November and required surgery.
He was a close second to Victor Oehling Norberg of Sweden in Tuesday's final, despite having only a few days of training on snow.
Del Bosco said he was able to incorporate balance training into his recovery and felt lighter and quicker upon his return to racing.
"It kind of all came back to me," Del Bosco said. "I'm super happy."
Tristan Tafel, of Canmore, Alta., was fifth. The Canadians say the course features big jumps, with Tafel comparing it to an X-Games circuit.
Serwa held off a charge in the final from Swiss skier Fanny Smith, but the World Cup leader crashed trying to pass Serwa, which allowed Thompson to overtake Smith for second.
Calgary's Brady Lehman was eliminated in the quarter-finals and placed 13th. Dave Duncan of London, Ont., didn't make it beyond the heats and was 22nd.
Georgia Simmerling of West Vancouver, B.C., and Calgary's Danielle Sundquist were ousted in the women's quarter-finals and finished 13th and 16th, respectively.
The ski cross team heads to Harrachov, Czech Republic, for the next World Cup races Saturday and Sunday.
The world freestyle championships are March 5-10 in Voss, Norway.