Kelsey Serwa is back on top.
Eleven months after suffering a season-ending knee injury at a World Cup ski cross race in France, the 23-year-old from Kelowna has returned to the podium.
Serwa captured the gold medal in Sunday’s World Cup race in San Candido, Italy, on the same hill where she won back-to-back races last December.
The reigning ski cross world champion looked to be back at her best as she dominated her quarter-final and semifinal before moving from last to first win win a thrilling women’s final.
Swiss ace Katrin Mueller spun out and French veteran Ophelie David was disqualified, while fellow Canadian Georgia Simmerling took silver behind Serwa.
“I was talking to (ski tech) Rod Honey and I told him, ‘I’m sick of losing. I’m going to win today,’ ” said Serwa, who has been trying to build her confidence from race to race after returning from surgery last January. “I’m hungry for it now. Before, I didn’t put that expectation on myself. Now, I’m ready to race.”
Serwa was dominant out of the start gate in the early heats and won her quarter-final with ease before doing the same in a stacked semifinal. That heat saw Swiss skier Fanny Smith—winner of the opening three World Cup races—embroiled in a tight duel with her teammate Katrin Mueller, which the latter ultimately won to bring Smith’s win streak to an end. Smith still leads the World Cup standings with 336 points, while Norway’s Marta Hoeie Gjefsen is second with 207 and Serwa third (195).
In the women’s final, Serwa didn’t have a good start but she used all of her experience to stay low through a section of rollers and move from fourth to first. From there, all the action went on behind her as Mueller and David made contact before Mueller went down. Serwa crossed the line in first and raised her arms aloft as she celebrated her first victory since winning both races in Italy in 2011.
“The cool thing about this sport is that you can have so many different scenarios and end up with the same result,” said Serwa, who went virtually unchallenged en route to gold here last season. “Last year I skied by myself and here today I had to pass three people to take gold. This almost feels better because I had to work for it.”
Canada ski cross assistant coach Brent Kehl said all the hard work Serwa put into the team’s return to snow program—following her knee injury—has paid off.
“Kelsey’s skiing is fantastic— it was just her confidence,” Kehl said. “Now that she’s going shoulder to shoulder with the girls she’s getting back into the (mindset) to race.”