February 21, 2014 - 5:31 AM
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia - Marielle Thompson won gold and Canadian teammate Kelsey Serwa took the silver in women's skicross Friday at the Sochi Olympics.
They pulled ahead early in the final and finished well in front of Sweden's Anna Holmund on a grey, rainy afternoon at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.
Thompson moved to first from the start and was pushed by her teammate to the finish. Holmund took the bronze and Ophelie David of France was fourth.
"I'm so glad that I get to share a podium with Kelsey," Thompson said. "Just starting in the final, it was really great to know that my teammate was beside me and either way (one of us will) be on the podium for Canada."
It was the second straight Olympic title for Canada in this event. Retired skier Ashleigh McIvor won four years ago at the Vancouver Games.
Thompson, from Whistler, B.C., has been dominant on the World Cup circuit this season and that continued Friday. She was strong in her early heats and was in control in the final.
Serwa, from Kelowna, B.C., needed a late surge at the finish to make it out of the semifinal. She also had a strong start in the final round and used that momentum to her advantage.
The friends and teammates were among the medal favourites entering the competition. Thompson has won two World Cup races this season and Serwa took the World Cup title on this course last year.
"We're all about girl power from the start," said Thompson. "We were just having fun all day. I know Kelsey and we tried to help each other all the way down the course."
Serwa fought off a little pressure from behind in the final run. It made her even more determined to finish strong with her teammate.
"I was thinking in my mind, 'OK Mar hold on to it, we're almost there, we can do it,'" Serwa said. "Just keep 'er pointed and sure enough, we made it down one and two."
Georgia Simmerling of West Vancouver, B.C., was eighth in the seeding run and won her opening heat, but crashed in the quarter-finals and left the course in obvious discomfort.
Simmerling appeared to lose her balance halfway down the course. It was one of several crashes on a course that had a number of challenging rollers, jumps and turns.
Germany's Anna Woerner went down a short time after the Canadian when she blew a landing after a jump. Chile's Stephanie Joffroy crashed in the quarter-final and had to be taken off the course on a stretcher.
Thompson and Serwa, meanwhile, were aggressive when they needed to be.
Serwa was boxed out early in the semifinal and needed to make a pass at the last jump to squeak into second place by half a ski length. Thompson was threatened late in her quarter-final heat and brushed Sanni Luedi in mid-air to move out in front, knocking the Swiss skier out of the race.
Fog hovered in the area and a light rain fell throughout most of the competition. The seeding run was delayed for 15 minutes due to the weather and there was another brief interruption in the quarter-final heats before the fog started to clear.
The results came a day after Canada just missed the podium in the men's skicross. Calgary's Brady Leman made it to the big final but settled for a fourth-place finish.
Serwa, 24, was fifth in this event at the Vancouver Games. She has endured several significant injuries since then but has always bounced back.
She injured her back in 2011 and won a world title a week later. In 2012, she tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee and won a World Cup in her fourth race back. Serwa tore the ACL again last year and still returned to top form this season.
Thompson, 21, won silver at last year's world championship and holds the top spot in the World Cup skicross rankings.
The 1-2 finish allowed Canada to bookend gold-silver performances in Olympic freestyle skiing. Freestyle competition opened Feb. 8 with Montreal sisters Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe finishing 1-2 in women's moguls.
Canadians also finished 1-2 in the men's moguls two days later, with Alex Bilodeau of Rosemere, Que., winning the gold medal and Mikael Kingsbury of Deux-Montagnes, Que., taking the silver.
The two medals Friday, which came a day after Canadian women won gold medals in hockey and curling, propelled Canada into second place on the medal table with a total of 22 — eight gold, 10 silver and four bronze.
Canada was guaranteed a gold or silver medal later Friday when Brad Jacobs and his Ontario rink battled Britain in the men's curling final.
News from © Canadian Press, 2014