British Columbia

Canadian ski cross team stunned by death of teammate Mikayla Martin

Mikayla Martin was a fearless and talented ski cross racer who packed a lot of living into her 22 years.

'I really, truly believe she would have had a very bright and successful career,' says teammate.

Mikayla Martin is shown in a handout photo from Alpine Canada. Canadian ski cross racer Martin died following a mountain bike accident in her hometown of Squamish, B.C. (HO-Malcolm Carmichael/Canadian Press/Alpine Canada )

Mikayla Martin was a fearless and talented ski cross racer who packed a lot of living into her 22 years, says a teammate.

The Canadian ski cross team was stunned by Martin's death following a mountain-biking accident in her hometown of Squamish, B.C., on Tuesday.

"It's so tragic," Brittany Phelan told The Canadian Press on Thursday.

"I really, truly believe she would have had a very bright and successful career. She would have done so much for women in sport."

Phelan, an Olympic silver medallist in 2018, says she and teammates Tiana Gairns and Zoe Chore have been inseparable in Whistler, B.C., since learning of their teammate's death.

"They have on their phones a bunch of recordings of Mikayla's laugh," Phelan said. "I kid you not. You could be in another room and when she laughed, you would hear her."

The women are leaning on each other for comfort and trying to think of ways to honour Martin when they race this season.

"We're staying together and processing it," Phelan said. "Being together is the most important thing.

"We were already talking about coming up with some foundation because it was so important to Mikayla to inspire younger girls."

The women had a workout with Martin on Tuesday in Whistler before heading their separate ways for the day.

Mikayla Martin came in first place at the 2018 FIS Junior Freestyle Ski and Snowboard World Championships in Cardrona, New Zealand. (Squamish RCMP handout)

'She had so much potential'

Martin was mountain biking with a male friend on a trail system behind Stawamus Chief Provincial Park when she was injured, according to Squamish RCMP.

Martin was airlifted to hospital, but did not survive.

In ski cross, four athletes race head to head down a course of jumps and rollers.

The winners advance to the next round of races with the goal of reaching the final.

Martin was an alpine ski racer with the Whistler Mountain Ski Club before switching to ski cross.

After winning a world junior women's championship in 2018, Martin quickly graduated to the national team.

She raced in World Cups last season, placing a career-best sixth in Switzerland. Martin qualified for February's world championship in Utah.

Martin reached the semifinal there before crashing out of contention. She was poised to race for Canada again this winter.

"She had so much potential," Phelan said. "Even at the last ski camp we were at in Australia just a couple weeks ago, she really stepped it up. We had these epic runs together."

Martin during a training jump in 2018. (Kevin Light/CBCSports)

Martin earned her motorcycle licence this year, as well as her scuba certification in Australia after the ski cross camp there.

"I always thought I was quite fearless and courageous and not afraid to try stuff, but I was really nothing in comparison to Mikayla," Phelan said.

"I'd become the veteran on the team and I'd be scoping out a jump and trying to decide if it's worth doing or if I should watch some people first and then I'd see Mikayla go by in the air.

"I think 'OK, I guess we're doing this. That looked way easier than what I was building up in my mind.' I loved that. It made me push myself."

Phelan didn't know details of the accident. She says Martin may have been fearless, but she wasn't reckless.

"Mikayla was an amazingly skilled bike rider," she said. "I do believe whatever happened was just one of those things that comes with high-risk sports. Mikayla was always doing stuff within herself, but pushing that limit.

"You hear about these amazing ski guys who get stuck in these avalanches and pass away. The most professional people just sometimes get unlucky in the mountains."

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