Ski Cross Athletes Winning World Cups, Leman with a Dramatic Comeback

INNICHEN/SAN CANDIDO, ITALY (Dec. 18, 2011) – Canada’s Kelsey Serwa made it a perfect two wins out of two Sunday when she led the women’s ski cross final from start to finish to secure her second World Cup victory in as many days.

The 2011 ski cross world champion and X games gold medallist from Kelowna, B.C., followed up her golden start to the season in Saturday’s race with a dominating display on Sunday, which saw her win the qualification round, the quarter-final, the semifinal and then the final.

In the men’s race, Dave Duncan, of London, Ont., narrowly missed out on securing his second podium of the weekend – after Saturday’s bronze medal – when he was caught up in a three-person crash in the final and finished fourth.

“It’s a fantastic start to the season,” said Serwa, who will be taking the red World Cup leader’s bib home with her for Christmas. “In the final I got out in front and I stayed in front all the way. I had the confidence from qualifying and the (technicians) nailed the wax once again. As soon as I started gliding, I just took off. It was great – I wish every race was like that!”

Leman rebounds from broken legs to win – Calgary Herald

The storyline of pain, mental resilience and flat-out stubbornness borders on unbelievable. “In March 2009, in World Cup finals,” began Calgary’s Brady Leman, during a conference call from Inniche/San Candido, Italy, “I broke my right tibia. Coming back from that crash, to get into the Olympics, the day before the race another hairline fracture that bent the surgical rod they’d put in, so they took that one out.

“Then finally last December, another crash, another injury in the same spot. I had two rods put in, a couple of bone graphs and a few other things.”

Yet, there he stood, at 25, a World Cup ski cross podium winner for the first time Saturday. Beyond all expectation. Beyond all logic.

Canada as a whole enjoyed a red-letter day, placing three additional athletes on podiums. World champion Kelsey Serwa, of Kelowna, B.C., continued where she left off, claiming the women’s race, with teammate Marielle Thompson, of Whistler, B.C., placing third – after having a ski pop off – to also post her first career World Cup podium. London, Ont.’s Dave Duncan finished third behind Leman in the men’s event.

“Broken legs are tough,” said Canadian coach Eric Archer of the comeback Calgarian. “Especially three times. He’s had a lot of confidence in training this year and he hasn’t had any pain. “He’s a competitive guy. He got a taste of success his first year on the tour here. But he’s been away from this level of competition for two years. “he third time was the charm, getting it fixed. So now let’s see where we can go from here.”

Leman’s last World Cup start before Saturday had been at Lake Placid just prior to the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games. “I’m just happy beyond words. A little shell-shocked to come back and win the opening race. I had the all-clear, health-wise, pretty early this year, early summer, late spring. So I had a full season of training under my felt.

“I’d almost forgotten what it felt to ski pain-free. It’s a cool feeling. I love skiing and I’ve been pretty much doing it since I could walk. So this has brought back a lot of the fun in the sport. “That whole year, leading up the Olympics, every time I put my boot on, it hurt. I couldn’t walk. Now, when I get to the bottom of the hill, I’m not thinking about it at all.

“(Injury) is the nature of our sport. Unfortunately, when you’re going down a mountain with three other people fighting for the same spot, you’re going to go down and sometimes it’s probably going to hurt. But most of the time, you’ll get back up.”

On three occasions, Brady Leman didn’t. He refused to allow that to keep him down. “I’m so happy for Brady,” said Serwa. “He’s the hardestworker out there. To battle through three broken legs and come out stronger than ever. It’s intimidating coming into your first World Cup after awhile, but he didn’t let that faze him at all. “I can’t speak for him, but he’s stoked to get out there and race again (today).”

It’s probably scant consolation for the time away and the rehabbing endured, but Brady Leman has authored one of those wonderful comeback stories which can inspire. “It was tough,” he admitted. “It’d be a lie to say it was an easy road to get here. But it seemed like every time I got hurt, I’d come back a little better and that was enough to keep me going.

“The last injury, I thought good and hard about whether I’d be able to come back. But I had a lot of confidence about where I could be, where I should be, if I was healthy. I kept that in mind. It was all knew to work hard to do whatever I could to overcome it and it paid off. “Quicker than I thought, for sure.”