Canada's McIvor wins ski cross gold

Tue Feb 23, 2010 10:04pm EST
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By Deborah Charles

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Canada's Ashleigh McIvor shrugged off the pressure, falling snow and a fierce battle with her rivals to easily win the Olympic debut of women's ski cross on Tuesday.

As the crowd of nearly 4,400 roared and some held up letters spelling out "Go Ash Go," McIvor sped across the finish line well ahead of the pack to win gold for Canada.

She threw her arms in the air as the flag-waving crowd went wild, yelling and ringing cow bells. Then McIvor screamed, jumped up and down and pumped her fist in the air.

"This is just the most amazing moment in my entire life," said an ecstatic McIvor, who grew up in nearby Whistler. "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.

The women's' debut of ski cross, a rough and tumble sport that pits four women against each other careening down a tough course of bumps, jumps and steep corners, was a success.

"I think that ski cross is really, really fun for people to watch," Berntsen told reporters. "It's action all the time. Lots of jumps and step downs and step ups and doubles (rollers). It's cool."

After a crash-filled series of heats the final was fought out between the three medalists after Austria's Karin Huttary got stuck on a hill near the start of the course.   Continued...

<p>Canada's Ashleigh McIvor celebrates after winning the gold medal in the women's ski cross finals during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics February 23, 2010. REUTERS/Mark Blinch</p>