Kelsey Serwa has always been intensely proud of her hometown.
Clearly that feeling is mutual, as hundreds of supporters—many of them clad in red-and-white—were on hand Thursday at the Kelowna International Airport to welcome the Olympic medalist back on to Okanagan soil.
The 24-year-old Serwa, who is still flying high after capturing the silver medal in women’s ski cross racing last week at the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, was overwhelmed by the reception.
“This is above and beyond what I ever expected,” said Serwa, who shed a few tears after being warmly greeted by fans, friends and family at the airport. “I think it just goes to show how strong a community Kelowna is. I didn’t get here on my own, it was a huge group effort, and just the love and support I felt in Russia from Kelowna is unspeakable.”
After missing out on the medals at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, Serwa’s ultimate goal in Sochi was to bring home the gold.
Still, finishing second to friend and Canadian teammate Marielle Thompson was a pretty nice alternative for the KSS grad.
“Every race I go out, I fight tooth and nail to get to the top of the podium,” she said.
“But it was the most amazing feeling coming over the finish line 1-and-2, knowing that we were bringing gold home to Canada and one more (medal).
“I skied as fast I could, she skied as fast as she could, and it turned out pretty well.”
While Serwa’s run to the silver medal last Friday was relatively smooth from start to finish, the long journey to the podium in Sochi was anything but a cakewalk.
Since 2011, the granddaughter of Big White founder Cliff Serwa has been plagued by injuries—first with a badly injured back, followed by season-ending knee surgeries in both 2012 and 2013.
Yet, with personal perseverance, rehab and plenty of support along the way, Serwa found a way to overcome the setbacks to reach the podium in Russia.
“It’s been a struggle for sure, two blown knees and a broken back, it hasn’t been easy by any means,” she said. “There’s been so much support and love I couldn’t have done it without that. Funding from Own the Podium, Alpine Canada, and Can Fund made world of difference and allowed me just to focus on training.”
While there are two more World Cup ski cross races this season, Serwa has chosen to shut her season down, head to Whistler for some downtime and to do a little coaching.
“I’m soaking this in and glad to be ending the season without crutches in my hands,” she said with a laugh. “That’s the first time for me in a couple of years, so it feels good.”
Away from the slopes, Serwa has launched the KSer Bursary Fund which is designed to help student-athletes to focus on their chosen sport and their studies without having to worry about finances. For more information, visit www.makeachamp.com/kelseyserwa.