LAKE PLACID, N.Y. – Two of his skicross teammates won gold Sunday, but Dave Duncan still had the biggest smile on the podium.
The native of Golden, B.C., put together his strongest performance of the World Cup season, a third-place finish that propelled him into the final spot on the Canadian Olympic freestyle team. Facing his final Olympic qualifying event, Duncan needed to finish fifth or better to surpass aerialist Olivier Rochon for a berth in Vancouver.
“It had crossed my mind a few times,” Duncan joked. “I think I woke up a couple times (Saturday night) just thinking about how the race was going to play out. But I just stuck to the game plan up there, and didn’t panic was mistakes were made, and crossed the finish line, and here we are.”
Christopher Del Bosco of Sudbury, Ont., won the men’s event, while Kelsey Serwa of Kelowna, B.C., captured the women’s race on a cool day at Whiteface Mountain. Del Bosco and Serwa each won their second gold medals of the season; both were awarded gold in Alpe D’Huez, France two weeks ago after poor weather forced organizers to cancel the finals.
Duncan skied with vigour Sunday, winning his opening heat before edging out teammate Brian Bennett to reach the semis. Needing to advance to the final to secure his Olympic spot, Duncan roared back from last place after a gate malfunction left him scrambling to make up ground from the get-go.
“I thought I could do this at Blue Mountain last week, but … I got a pole stuck between my legs in the (quarter-finals),” said Duncan. “It almost happened here again. My gate didn’t drop, so I was fourth out of the gate.”
Duncan considered asking for a do-over.
“There was a split second where I said I should pull over and ask for a protest,” said Duncan. “At the same time, sometimes those don’t go your way.
“I had my mind set on what I needed to do, and there wasn’t anything that was going to stop me.”
Serwa was equally impressive, cruising through to the final and then building a healthy lead before fending off a hard-charging Fanny Smith of Switzerland, who finished second.
“I knew that she’d be on my butt all the way through,” said Serwa. “I was just focusing on being aerodynamic, and keeping it clean, and hoping that no one passed me.”
Ophelie David of France placed third, followed by Ashleigh McIvor of Whistler, B.C., in fourth.
Serwa is rounding into form at just the right time. She has top-10 finishes in each of her last four events after opening the season with three straight disappointing outings.
“I had a rough part at the beginning of the season, so it’s nice to get that little extra confidence going into the Games,” said Serwa.
Del Bosco held on to beat Andreas Matt of Austria, who won silver. Duncan and Daron Rahlves of the U.S., rounded out the top four. The Colorado native looked relieved as he stepped onto the podium, having earned his Olympic berth earlier in the week.
“I kind of had some pressure off heading into the race,” said Del Bosco. “I knew I needed to ski how I can ski, and good things would happen. I managed to get it done.”
With the conclusion of the skicross competition, the Olympic freestyle team is now set. Seven members of the skicross team will compete in Vancouver – Duncan, Serwa, Del Bosco, McIvor, Julia Murray of Whistler, B.C., Danielle Poleschuk of Winnipeg and Stanley Hayer of Calgary.
“We’re the best team out there,” said Serwa. “Everyone watches to see what we’re doing in training and qualifying.
“I couldn’t ask for a better team. Training with the girls, we all help each other. We train with the boys … it’s just a great environment. Everyone kinds of feeds off each other.”
Notes: Jamaican skicross competitor Errol Kerr had the fifth-fastest time in Saturday’s qualifying, but crashed hard during his Sunday heat and remained on the course for several minutes. … David remained the overall World Cup leader on the women’s side with 475 points, followed by McIvor (437), Serwa (292) and Murray (279), who didn’t compete in Lake Placid after tweaking her right knee in training. … Michael Schmid of Switzerland retained the overall men’s lead with 435 points. Matt is second with 306, followed by Del Bosco with 297.