Ashleigh McIvor, freestyle skier (born 15 September 1983 in Vancouver, BC). At the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, McIvor won the gold medal for Canada in women’s ski cross, the first female Olympic champion of the sport. McIvor also won the gold medal in women’s ski cross at the 2009 World Freestyle Skiing Championships in Inawashiro, Japan. Since retiring from ski cross in 2012 due to a knee injury, she has built a career in modelling, public speaking, and sports commentary. In 2013 she married Jay DeMerit, captain of the Vancouver Whitecaps soccer team.
McIvor started as an alpine skier and competed on the North American circuit until the age of 16. In 2000, she suffered a serious injury and decided to switch to ski cross in 2003. McIvor quickly achieved great success in her new sport. She won a Winter X Games qualifier in Northstar, California — despite competing with a dislocated shoulder — and later that year won an event in Nakiska, AB (the site for alpine skiing at the 1988 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary).
First World Cup Medal
On 25 October 2004, the 21-year-old McIvor won a silver medal in her first World Cup competition in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, beaten by Ophelie David of France by the slimmest of margins. However, McIvor’s performance in the qualifications was her most impressive performance at the competition, as she posted the fastest time of 53.83 seconds.
A Model Sportswoman
McIvor spent the next three years (2005–2007) competing in only a few events in North America on the SAAB Salomon Crossmax International circuit, winning the 2005 United States Freeskiing Open in Vail, Colorado. At the time, the sport of ski cross was struggling in North America; as it was not yet an Olympic sport, there was no widespread interest and little funding was available.
However, McIvor continued to be in the public eye. She worked with a number of photographers in the skiing and fashion industries, and participated in a New York fashion show called “Skiing is Sexy.”
Ski Cross Added to the Olympics
On 28 November 2006, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that ski cross would be given full medal status for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, joining alpine skiing’s super combined as the two new events on the Olympic program.
Like other ski cross athletes and enthusiasts, McIvor had previously argued for the sport’s inclusion in the Olympics. While attending the University of British Columbia in 2003, McIvor wrote an essay explaining why ski cross should have Olympic status. She argued that ski cross would not require additional infrastructure, was very popular among world youth, and was a very fan-friendly spectator sport (in ski cross, four competitors race simultaneously down the mountain, with the first two finishers advancing to the next heat). The IOC’s announcement in 2006 meant that McIvor’s Olympic dream would now be a reality.
Return to the World Cup Stage
With ski cross earning full Olympic status, a Canadian National Ski Cross team was formed in 2007. The team was led on the women’s side by McIvor and Julia Murray (daughter of the late alpine skier Dave Murray, a member of the Crazy Canucks) and on the men’s side by Stanley Hayer, Davey Barr and Christopher Del Bosco.
In January 2008, McIvor returned to Europe and competed on the World Cup circuit for the first time since her silver medal performance in 2004. McIvor finished fourth in Les Contamines, France, but in the process, she dislocated her right shoulder. Four days later, McIvor finished fifth at a competition in Flaine, France, and decided to end her season to have surgery.
Heading into the 2009 World Freestyle Skiing Championships in Inawashiro, Japan, McIvor competed in seven World Cup ski cross races, and finished on the podium three times — winning silver in Flaine, France, and on Vancouver’s own Cypress Mountain (the host site of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games), as well as bronze in Branas, Sweden.
The 2009 World Championships were the first for McIvor, and she started out slowly. She hooked a gate in the qualification round and took almost two minutes to restart her run. McIvor received the 28th and final position for the heats, which meant that she would be at a disadvantage in the start position during the elimination rounds.
McIvor battled her way to the top two positions in each of her first three heats, choosing a difficult approach over the first jump to gain time into a tough corner. She took the same line in the finals to get by her competitors and captured the gold medal.
Like the 2009 World Championships, McIvor headed into the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver with momentum on her side. On 9 January, a month before the Olympic Winter Games, she won her first career World Cup race in Les Contamines, France. She was also on the World Cup podium in San Candido, Italy; Alpe d’Huez, France; and Blue Mountain, ON; and finished second at the 2010 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.
By the time McIvor competed at Cypress Mountain, Canadian athletes had already won five Olympic gold medals. On 23 February 2010, McIvor entered the international spotlight. She had the second-fastest time in the qualification round, won her first two heats, and finished second in her semi-final heat to advance to the final. McIvor dominated the rest of the field and, with a patriotic crowd cheering her on, became the first female to be named Olympic ski cross champion.
McIvor competed in one more World Cup season in 2010–11, and had three more World Cup podium finishes. While training for the 2011 Winter X Games, McIvor injured her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), and retired from competitive ski cross on 16 November 2012.
McIvor has appeared in advertisements for Oakley, Acura and Bell. She also has a busy career as a public speaker and has worked as an announcer for CBC. In 2013, she married Vancouver Whitecaps captain Jay DeMerit. McIvor has residences in both Vancouver and Whistler; after she won Olympic gold, the town of Whistler recognized her success by naming a private road in her honour.
Gold, FIS Freestyle World Ski Championship (2009)
Silver, Winter X Games (2010)
Gold, Olympic Winter Games (2010)