ROSA KHUTOR, Russia, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Four years ago, a Canadian teenager watched Ashleigh McIvor win the first Olympic ski cross gold at Cypress Mountain from her couch some 125 kilometres away in Whistler.
On Friday, the self-same Marielle Thompson, now 21, retained the title for her country - and for Whistler - when she led Kelsey Serwa to a Canadian one-two in Sochi.
Following McIvor’s injury-forced retirement from the sport in 2012, Thompson and her team mates felt honour-bound to keep the Olympic title in their country.
“It’s really great to keep it in Canadian hands,” Thompson told reporters after her victory at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.
“I got to watch Ashleigh win off my couch, watching her on TV,” she said. “When I saw Ashleigh win I was like ‘wow, I could really do this. She did it, she’s from our little town, why can’t I, right?'”
Thompson and Serwa gave Canada their third freestyle skiing gold-silver finish at the Games.
Sisters Justine and Chloe Dufour La Pointe came first and second in the women’s moguls, while Alex Bilodeau and Mikael Kingsbury took the top two steps on the podium in the men’s event.
The ski cross triumph involved more than a little team work, Thompson said.
“In the first turn I gave her a little space because she called inside. We definitely tried to help each other, I‘m not going to cut her off. That’s just how we went the whole way down.”
Thompson’s ski instructor parents first put her on a pair of skis at the age of two and she was an alpine racer until the age of 16 when she switched to ski cross.
It is a decision she does not regret.
“When I kinda just wanted to try something new, and we had this little ski cross race in Whistler and I tried it and I had a blast, and I thought ‘I think I want to do this.',” she recalled.
”I’ve loved it since I started, really,“ she added. ”It’s just so fun racing against other people, it’s just like when we were little, racing your friends down the ski hill.
“It’s the most fun you can have on skis.” (Editing by Ed Osmond)