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VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Canada's Ashleigh McIvor shrugged off the pressure, falling snow and a fierce battle with her rivals to easily won the women's debut ski cross on Tuesday.
As the crowd of nearly 4,400 roared and held up letters spelling out "Go Ash Go," McIvor sped across the finish line well ahead of the pack.
She threw her arms in the air as the flag-waving crowd went wild. Then she screamed, jumped up and down and pumped her fist into the air.
"This is just the most amazing moment in my entire life," an ecstatic McIvor told reporters. "It's in my hometown pretty much -- what more could I ask for?"
Norway's Hedda Berntsen won the silver medal and France's Marion Josserand took bronze after pre-race favorite Ophelie David of France crashed out in the quarter-finals.
David, 2010 X Games winner, surprised herself and the crowd when her medal hopes vanished after she tangled with team mate Josserand.
"I made too many mistakes," said David, who struggled with her starts all day.
The final race was fought out between the three medalists after Austria's Karin Huttary got stuck near the start of the course.
Josserand, whose fluorescent pink helmet could easily be seen through the fog and snow, gave McIvor a slight scare and challenged her about halfway through the course but the Canadian took the fastest line around the curves and flew ahead over the jumps to stay in front.
By the time she arrived at the final two jumps McIvor was on her own and she sailed across the finish line to the roar of the fiercely partisan crowd.
McIvor's victory was especially sweet after her team mates, also among the pre-race favorites, failed to reach the finals. The strongest Canadian finish after McIvor was Kelsey Serwa who came fifth after winning the "small final."
(additional reporting by Mary Milliken)
Editing by Ed Osmond