Canadian ski cross racer Kelsey Serwa has been using a different mental approach since the Vancouver Olympics last year.
The change has paid off so far.
Serwa finished first at a World Cup freestyle event Wednesday and she was joined on the podium by teammate and Olympic champion Ashleigh McIvor, who was third.
Serwa said she made an adjustment to her pre-race mindset at the Games. With the pressure at a dizzying height, Serwa took a few deep breaths and told herself to just nail the start of her races and things would get easier from there.
It paid off with a victory in the consolation final and a fifth-place finish.
"You can either totally stress out, muck up and struggle the entire way down or stay focused on the goal and what you want to do and achieve it," Serwa said on a conference call. "Then the stress is a lot less and it's a lot easier on your body too."
Serwa, who opened this season with a second-place finish in San Candido, Italy, moved 11 points behind overall leader Heidi Zacher of Germany. Fanny Smith of Switzerland was second in the race and is third in the standings.
Serwa, of Kelowna, B.C., said she tried to stay as compact as possible and take the straightest line possible down the challenging course.
"I knew that if you're leading, this course is fast and it's big and that the girls would be right on my tail holding the pressure," Serwa said. "So I just went like a bat out of hell and as fast as I could."
She added that the final heat felt like a training session as she and McIvor called out positions to each other on the course.
"I think it's an intimidation factor to other teams," Serwa said.
McIvor said she ran out of space after Smith passed her on a jump and had to settle for third.
"I was pretty hungry for a result here," McIvor said. "I think the whole atmosphere [on tour] in general is a little more chill than it has been in the past— a little more fun focused.
"That's when things usually go well for me."
Marielle Thompson of Whistler, B.C., was eighth and Danielle Poleschuk of Calgary was ninth.
Daniel Bohnacker of Germany earned his first career World Cup win by finishing ahead of overall leader Andreas Matt and Patrick Koller, both of Austria, in the men's race.
Chris Del Bosco of Sudbury, Ont., was the top Canadian in fifth. Toronto's Nick Zoricic was eighth, Davey Barr of Whistler, B.C., was ninth and David Duncan of London, Ont., was 10th.
It was the second straight year that Serwa was victorious on the L'Alpe D'Huez course.
"I'm on a pretty good roll now," she said. "I know that I can do it. I've just got to believe I can and keep it going."