WHISTLER, B.C. (July 26, 2012) – Canada’s Olympians will get a helping hand from one of the golden girls of Vancouver 2010 as they go in search of some heavy metal at the London Games.
Ashleigh McIvor, the first woman to win Olympic gold in the sport of ski cross, has some words of wisdom to share with her summer counterparts as they prepare to compete at the XXX Olympiad in England’s capital.
McIvor, from Whistler, B.C., knows all about performing under pressure having gone into the 2010 Winter Olympics as a medal favourite and emerged as a history-maker at her hometown Games.
“I’m going to be at Canada Olympic House during the Games. I’m really looking forward to being able to relay my experiences to the athletes,” said McIvor, who is just wrapping up the third and final week of an intense national team ski cross dryland training camp in Whistler.
“I’m going to help (former B.C. premier, now Canadian high commissioner to the United Kingdom) Gordon Campbell. I’ve been asked to bring my (gold medal) to help provide star power.”
McIvor, 28, became one of the stories of the 2010 Games when she kept her cool under incredible pressure to claim gold in the women’s ski cross final. Determined to enjoy the experience, she famously convinced herself to approach the biggest challenge of her life like it was any other race.
“It frustrates me when people complain about the pressure people put on the athletes with all the support we’ve been getting from Own The Podium and others,” McIvor said. “Pressure comes from having high expectations and having no excuses. I hope to help athletes reframe that into a positive thing.
“Looking back on my own Olympic experience, I didn’t let myself think about how nervous I was. I realize now how much work that was. I had to work hard to push those (doubts) out of my head.”
After experiencing the ultimate high in Vancouver McIvor suffered a serious knee injury the following season during a training run at the Winter X Games. She returned to snow some time ago but has had to be patient as she works towards a return to competition in 2012-13.
“My general fitness is really good and my knee is feeling good,” McIvor said. “The camp has great – it’s been very intense. It’s been a lot of work and long hours with several sessions a day but it felt good to be back with the team.
“I’d been doing sort of maintenance workouts and now I’m really pushing it so I can be ski-ready – building strength and power.”
The camp McIvor is attending features men’s and women’s national team racers including reigning world champion Kelsey Serwa, of Kelowna, B.C., – who is also returning from a knee injury. Athletes were put through their paces in the gym and also did speed and agility training, mountain bike rides and pump track sessions, among other things.
“It’s been good for everybody to be out here working out together,” said coach Willy Raine, who competed for Canada at the 1992 Winter Olympic Games in slalom. “Some of the girls have been doing injury-recovery work and the guys are all pushing really hard.
“Ashleigh’s going over to the Olympics and I’m sure she’s going to come back even more motivated. (Crystal Globe winner) Marielle (Thompson), Tristan (Tafel) and Brady (Leman) will also go over with the Canadian Olympic Committee just to get a taste of what it’s like. Someone like Marielle, if we can keep her healthy and working hard, is tracking really nicely for Sochi (2014).”
McIvor is looking at 2012-13 as a comeback year, but the 2009 world champion is still aiming high.
“My goal is to get my body performing well and the next goal is to get the mind back on the program,” McIvor said. “It always takes a while to get back into that super-aggressive mindset. I would like to get a couple of solid World Cup results and a result at world champs. As much as I would like to say I’m going for the World Cup overall I don’t think it’s a realistic option.”
McIvor got to know some of Canada’s Olympians during the recent Subaru Vancouver International Triathlon, in which she did the biking section of the sprint relay as part of a team that included London-bound triathlete Brent McMahon. Thanks in no small part to McMahon’s heroics McIvor’s team finished first.
“I got to know Brent McMahon and (fellow London-bound triathlete) Paula Findlay and I’m looking forward to catching up with them there,” McIvor said. “I’m hoping to have a lot of interaction with our athletes. I’ll be (talking about) the concept of really (savouring it) in a positive sense and focusing on having fun and avoiding stressing too much.”
McIvor, who will be tweeting about her experiences in London (follow her at www.twitter.com/ashleighmcivor), is also hoping to do some media workduring the Games.
“I’m really looking forward to watching the BMX event. It’s similar to ski cross,” McIvor said. “I’m also looking forward to triathlon. I would like to be able to go to the 100-metre sprint and the gold medal (soccer) game, but we’ll see . . .
“I can’t imagine being in that phase of preparation again – two weeks out from an Olympic event, so I’m relieved that I’m not.
“I usually get more nervous watching others than I do competing. But I’m sure by the end of the Games that fire inside me will be seriously reignited.”
You can keep up to date with McIvor’s travels and her comeback by checking out her new website at www.ashleighmcivor.com.
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