KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — Before the Vancouver Olympics, the Canadians set out to own the podium.
Here in Sochi, at least when it comes to freestyle skiing, they’ve kept a nice hold on their purchase.
Marielle Thompson and Kelsey Serwa won gold and silver for Canada in women’s skicross Friday, giving their country bookend gold-silver performances in Olympic freestyle skiing.
Freestyle opened Feb. 8 with sisters Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe of Montreal finishing 1-2 in moguls.
In between, the Canadians sent two people to the podium twice — in men’s moguls and women’s slopestyle — and also had the men’s silver medalist on the halfpipe.
In all, that’s nine freestyle medals for the country that pumped upward of $110 million into their “Own The Podium” program in advance of the Vancouver Games four years ago.
Canada’s leaders wanted to reach its full potential on the mountain and saw opportunities in the wave of action-sports events introduced to the Olympics over the past two decades. They also wanted the build a program that would last, and certainly it has.
This marked Thompson’s third and biggest win of the season. Serwa is a regular on World Cup podiums herself.
The final pitted the four fastest women in qualifying. Thompson, ranked third, took an early lead against the first-ranked Serwa and never let it slip.
Ophelie David of France wiped out about two-thirds of the way down the course, which gave the bronze to Sweden’s Anna Holmlund.
Once again, women’s skicross offered its fair share of accidents that could ignite a discussion over whether the Olympic course is built too big for the women.
In back-to-back quarterfinals, Anna Woerner of Germany and Stephanie Joffroy of Chile were taken off the course on stretchers after scary accidents. No updates were immediately provided. Joffroy waved to the crowd at the bottom and Woerner could be seen covering her face with her hands.
Their wrecks were jarring reminders of the dangers of this sport that were amplified when Russian skicross racer Maria Komissarova fractured her spine in training last weekend. She had emergency surgery at a hospital in the mountains and was later taken to Munich for another operation.