Resilient Kelsey Serwa looking for golden finish at Sochi Winter Games

Having established herself as the world’s finest at the 2011 Ski Cross World Championships, Kelsey Serwa is looking for Winter Games gold to complement her triumph. A member of Canada’s National Ski Cross team, the 24 yaer-old is one of the emotional favorites heading into Sochi 2014.

Winning a gold medal in Women’s Ski Cross at the February 2011 FIS Worlds at Deer Valley in Park City, Utah. Photo credit: Ezra Shaw from Getty Images North America

Winning a gold medal in Women’s Ski Cross at the February 2011 FIS Worlds at Deer Valley in Park City, Utah. Photo credit: Ezra Shaw from Getty Images North America

A native of Kelowna, British Columbia, skiing was in her blood. In the early 1960’s, her grandfather Cliff Serwa was a co-founder of the Big White Ski Resort. It was evident that Serwa would become a skiing prodigy. Having trained in fog, soft snow and other unusual weather conditions, it would only make her better prepared to succeed. Starting at the age of six, her hard work and determination would lead to a spot on the Canadian Women’s National Development Team in 2007.

In 2009, she would go from alpine racing to a more extreme version of the sport – ski cross. The change would result in superstardom. To date, she has earned over a dozen World Cup podium finishes. Despite such success, Winter Games gold has eluded her. Competing on home soil at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, she would finish in fifth.

Another obstacle would present itself two years later. After suffering a devastating knee injury in January 2012 at a World Cup race in the Alpe d’Huez resort in France, it was a long and agonizing recovery for Serwa. Before the injury, she had already won the first two World Cup races of the 2011-12 season. Despite being a World Champion, X-Games gold medalist, National Champion, and two-time South American Champion, Serwa needs to show her critics is tough enough to become a champion again.

Sadlly, she suffered another setback in Myrkdalen, Norway on March 10, 2013. With a torn ACL in her left knee, she became a victim of what many competitors believe to be a chronic problem of poorly designed and built courses. The ski on her left leg caught an edge on what seemed to be a perfect jump. Prior to the injury, victories in San Candido, Italy and in Sochi were part of her strong start to the season.

The win in Sochi was enriched by the fact that she resisted a pair of pass attempts by Switzerland’s Fanny Smith, Considering that Ashleigh McIvor (whom Serwa beat for a national title in 2009) and Julia Murray retired from the sport due to knee injuries, Canadian sports fans do not want to see Serwa walk away from the sport too.

Featured in Sportsnet Magazine’s 2013 edition of the Beauty of Sport. Photo by Matt Barnes, image from: http://www.sportsnet.ca/the-beauty-of-sport/#section=25

Featured in Sportsnet Magazine’s 2013 edition of the Beauty of Sport. Photo by Matt Barnes, image from: http://www.sportsnet.ca/the-beauty-of-sport/#section=25

Anyone that wants to write off Serwa is making a serious error in judgement. The 2011 X-Games title was claimed a week after suffering injuries to her back and ribs in a painful crash. It was part of a season in which she swept the two biggest ski cross events in the world.

In addition to her training in Oregon, Serwa also juggles academic obligations. Studying from a breadth of courses such as anatomy, physiology and psychology at Okanagan College, she is working towards a degree in physiotherapy. Not one to wallow in self-pity, her hard work sets an example for so many other young athletes who have doubts or lack confidence.

A big part of the momentum for Serwa’s comeback will also take place on November 11 at The Hot Box Yoga in her hometown of Kelowna. A fundraiser yoga class, the proceeds shall go towards Canfund. As Serwa works towards the elusive Winter Games gold medal that would not only complete her storied career, but solidify her legacy as one of Canada’s greatest in ski cross, it is a kind gesture.

With a race on December 7, 2013 in Nakiska, Alberta, Canada, it is one of eight races on the road to Sochi. Hopefully, it shall prove to be the race that leads Serwa towards a golden redemption in Sochi. Should it happen, it would be the culmination to a remarkable story that not even a Hollywood filmmaker could think of. Regardless of the outcome, she is the embodiment of the character that defines so many Canadian athletes. On toughness alone, she is a role model for young female athletes.

Sportsnet Magazine’s Beauty in Sport Issue captures the essence with several captivating athletes

With photo shoots ranging throughout Canada and a rigorous five day shoot in Las Vegas, Sportsnet Magazine released its second annual Beauty in Sport issue. Although some critics could dismiss the publication as competition for the ESPN Body Issue, the reality is that both give the opportunity to spotlight female athletes who toil in anonymity for little recognition.

As Sportsnet is a Canadian periodical published by Rogers, the athletes featured between the covers are all Canadian. With 28 athletes featured, 19 are female. While even the most dedicated sports fan would have difficulty identifying the names of the female athletes (and the sport they compete in), their beauty and sex appeal is only part of the package.

The one common factor among all athletes is injuries, and bumps and bruises were evident with some of the athletes. X-Games world champion Kelsey Serwa arrived with a swollen knee due to surgery. Canadian soccer sweethearts Kaylyn Klye and Emily Zurrer both had scrapes up to their thighs.

In being an athlete, the commitment involved takes great desire, and the discipline and dedication required is a unique quality. Their hard work and character displays a very strong, rugged yet admirable inner beauty that makes them role models for all athletes, male or female.

While publisher Steve Maich acknowledged that it was different working with athletes because they were not models, he was also quick to acknowledge that all the athletes were likeable people. Although many of the female athletes are not household names, there was a few that certainly left their mark in the world of sport.

Competing in the cross-country mountain biking competition at London 2012, Brooklin, Ontario’s Emily Batty was the cover girl for the issue. The blonde beauty did not medal at London, but she certainly captured the hearts and minds of many sports fans with her magnetic smile on the cover.

Three females were gold medalists at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games; Kallie Humphries, Tessa Virtue and Meaghan Mikkelson. While all three come from very different sporting backgrounds – bobsleigh, ice dancing and ice hockey – all three are authentic Canadian heroes.

Mikk Meaghan Mikkelson

Another trio of heroes highlighted the females featured in the Beauty of Sport. A tantalizing trio of members from Canada’s soccer team that gained bronze at the 2012 London Summer Games was photographed in Las Vegas. Featuring Kaylyn Klye, Lauren Sesselmann and Emily Zurrer, all three donned their swimsuits while a dolphin would leap in the background behind them.

Rugby teammates Barbara Mervin and Brittany Waters also exchanged their shorts and jerseys for swimsuits. Mervin, 31 and Waters, 30 are also members of the British Columbia provincial rugby team. The dynamic duo was photographed together at the MGM Grand and the Neon Museum.

Barbara Mervin and Brittany Waters

Barbara Mervin and Brittany Waters

Of note, Mervin is accustomed to the camera. Having played with the national team since 2004, she was also part of a nude calendar in 2012 that featured members of Canada’s women’s rugby team.

While she leaves enough for the imagination, it is important to emphasize that Swervin Mervin (as she is affectionately known) is more than just beautiful. There is an even greater beauty beneath the surface. Having transitioned from 15s to 7s, she spends a remarkable five hours a day in training. She is an empowering woman whose great sense of teamwork, assistance with summer camps and coaching at the University of Victoria comprise makes her a role model for young women looking to get into sport.

Of all the athletes that ventured down to Las Vegas, the most unique may have been Summer Mortimer.
Mortimer Summer Mortimer

After a trampoline accident caused significant damage to the bones in her feet, she displayed great courage by learning to swim again. Having won four medals at the 2012 London Paralympic Games, she was one of Canada’s sweethearts at the event. Along with five world records in para-swimming, she was also named an Athlete Ambassador for the 2015 Toronto Parapan Games. Appropriately, she grew up near Toronto in Burlington. At 20 years old, not only does she conduct herself with a quiet dignity and grace that makes her an admirable athlete, but she was one of the youngest athletes featured in the publication.

While she is the first paralympic athlete to appear in the Beauty of Sport, it is worth noting that the ESPN Body Issue has also featured physically challenged athletes. As Swimming World Magazine stated in a review of Mortimer appearing in the issue, athletes are not only a vision of health, but these kinds of photo shoots promote a healthy lifestyle and set a positive example.

Six other athletes were photographed at Las Vegas. Among the group, it included volleyball player Claire Hanna, a three-time CIS national champion with the UBC Thunderbirds. Forty year-old curler Heather Smith-Dacey and Kelsey Serwa, who competed in the Ski Cross at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games was photographed at Red Rock Canyon.

World Cup skeleton champion Melissa Hollingsworth, a bronze medalist from the Torino Winter Games was photographed at the MGM Grand. Joining her at the venue was 2012 FIS World Cup gold medal skier Erin Mielzynski.

Four other athletes from this remarkable group of women were photographed in Toronto. A pair of track and field sensations, Brianne Theisen and Phylicia George was photographed at Monarch Park. George finished in the 100 meter hurdles at London 2012, while Theisen competed in the Heptathlon.
Sarah Wells, a competitor in the 400-meter hurdles at London 2012 modeled Nike (like George) for her photo shoot. Taylor Pischke, a beach volleyball player with six Canadian national titles was photographed wearing Miss Jackson swimwear at Ashbridges Bay.

Credit goes to Maich who acknowledged that compared to other countries, Canada needed to do a better job at elevating their athletes to star status. While fans may already be anticipating the 2014 edition, there is no question that the athletes featured are helping to shed a positive light on Canadian sport.

Photos of Summer Mortimer, Barbara Mervin and Brittany Waters and Meaghan Mikkelson by Matt Barnes