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Canada's star-crossed ski-crossers net one gold medal

Canada's Ashleigh McIvor celebrates her gold medal in the women's ski cross. (Jason Payne / Canwest News Service / MCT)
Canada's Ashleigh McIvor celebrates her gold medal in the women's ski cross. (Jason Payne / Canwest News Service / MCT)

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Circumstances couldn't have been much different for Canada's ski-cross couple.

Chris Del Bosco's dreams of winning a medal for Canada turned nightmarish Sunday when a sure-fire bronze evaporated in a forlorn heap on a bright, spring-like day at Cypress Mountain.

Two days later, with the winter back in the Winter Olympics, Ashleigh McIvor won gold for Canada in women's ski cross in picturesque heavy falling snow, leading early and easily holding on.

McIvor had watched her boyfriend Del Bosco from the stands, and he was, in turn, on hand Tuesday to support her winning effort. Her gold is the sixth for Canada at the Games.

"Who could go out and represent Canada better than a Whistler girl?" asked McIvor.

Hedda Berntsen of Norway won silver and Marion Josserand of France took the bronze. Pre-race favorite Ophelie David of France crashed and went out in the quarterfinals. The United States had no entrants in the women's event, which was making its Olympic debut.

Immediately after winning, McIvor was asked about once crafting an essay in school, supporting the inclusion of ski cross in the Olympics. The sport was accepted as an Olympic event in 2006 after the success of snowboard cross.

"Standing in the starting gate, I was thinking that everything that's happened in my life has been leading me to this moment," she said. "This is where I wanted to be. I feel like I was made for this event."

Born to be a ski-cross daredevil?

Well, practically. She did start skiing at age 2.

The event has been referred to as NASCAR on skis, and as you might expect, there were plenty of crashes, especially with the falling snow and decreased visibility.

There were five spills in the first eight heats, and one in the very first heat of 32 taking out Yulia Livinskaya of Russia, causing almost a 20-minute delay on the course. She was taken off the course in a sled, suffering from a sore back, neck and knee.

The sport is not without its inspirational stories. So much was made out of two Americans: 37-year-old Casey Puckett and 36-year-old Daron Rahlves on the men's side.

But there was a 43-year-old in the final 32 of the women's event: former alpine racer Katharina Gutensohn of Austria, a mother of three.

"I feel young," she said, laughing. "My body is in good shape. Many people say that (ski cross) is crazy. I say it's crazy. It's absolutely crazy.

"It depends on the course. This is really an extreme course."

Gutensohn said that she "soon will stop" ski cross. "I think after here," she said. "For me, it's the perfect finish."

Maybe there was another sport in her Olympic future. Golf, perhaps?

"That's my sport," Gutensohn said. "See you at the Summer Olympics."

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