Ashleigh McIvor knows a thing or two about adversity.
The women’s ski-cross gold medalist at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, the 29-year-old has spent the past 18 months or so on the sidelines, recovering her second major ACL blow-out, an injury that threatened to wipe out her career.
Today the Whistler, B.C. native is on the comeback trail and hopes to be back on skis in competitive fashion as soon as August.
“It was actually kind of repeat of the first ACL injury. It was pretty much the exact same thing,” said McIvor, in town Thursday for the annual Lakehead Sports Celebrity Dinner.
“I had it repaired last March and it just hasn’t healed up properly. My knees have taken a beating over the years doing what I do. I just had it cleaned up a few weeks ago. I had a scope done to remove some scar tissue and I’m hoping to be back on snow in mid-August.”
The goal is to get back to the top, she added.
“I want to get back at it this winter so I can get a world championship result and be set up for a good result at the Olympics.”
Making a comeback as she nears the magic age of 30 seems like old hat to McIvor, who said she never set out to be an Olympian, it just sort of worked out that way.
“I’m getting really good at coming back from injuries, that’s one advantage to having hurt myself so much,” she said, chuckling.
“It’s tough, and the biggest part is the mental aspect. Ski-cross, a lot of it’s in your head. You have to have the ability to go for it. There’s no grey area. It’s kind of an all-or-nothing sport. You can’t just slide your way down the course and take it easy.”
It’s a sport that’s proven deadly in the past.
Just this year Canadian Nik Zoricic was killed at a World Cup event in Grindelwald, Swtizerland.
McIvor said while North Americans have ski-cross course building down pat, the Europeans are struggling to catch up.
It’s tough to cater to all the athletes and build jumps that are going to work for all those speeds, in a sport dubbed NASCAR on skis by Alpine Canada.
But the Europeans are getting there, McIvor said, despite the freak accident in March that claimed Zoricic’s life.
“A lot of them come from Alpine backgrounds and they don’t really understand the physics of taking air and building jumps properly,” she said. “But we’re getting there and for me it’s all part of the game. I love the fun component and for the most part it’s been worth the risk,” she said.
“But I’ve been finding myself re-evaluating that daily. But we’ll get there.”
Growing up, McIvor was a downhill racer, but an injury ended any hope of a competitive career – not that she was all that interested anyway.
“It was always just for the fun of it, and my parents were so awesome about it. I’d call home from a race across the country and instead of saying, ‘How’d you do, what was your result?’ they’d say, ‘Did you have fun?’
“And I’d say, yeah, and I won, or something like that. I’ve always been sort of a go-with-the-flow type person. I do believe in setting goals and establishing intentions, but I also believe in allowing my dreams to find me.”
McIvor gave up the sport at 16, went to university and even tried modeling – she was recently named by Sportsnet Magazine as one of the top 30 most beautiful athletes in the world.
She dabbled in ski-cross, but when the sport fizzled out in North America and sponsors disappeared as its Olympic status appeared in doubt, she figured that was it.
“When they put it back in the Olympics in 2007, I got back into it. And at that point I said yes, I do want to compete in the Olympics and represent my country. And represent my country well. But it was not a lifelong goal for me, although I was indirectly training for it my whole life as an Alpine athlete, downhill mountain biker, dirt biker, all those things.”
McIvor is using her injury downtime to pursue a degree at the University of British Columbia.
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