Announcing my Retirement from Skicross

by Ashleigh McIvor on November 16, 2012
This article originally appeared on Ashleigh's personal website.
As you may have gathered, I have made the decision to retire from competitive skicross.  I chose to make the announcement at the Fairmont Pacific Rim, because it became my home away from home throughout the festivities after the Olympics in Vancouver and being there brought back a lot of great memories. 

I’ve realized retirement would be a difficult decision at any stage, and this timing just makes the most sense as far as making the transition into the next phase of my career, and making the most of the opportunities that have presented themselves thanks to the success I’ve had as a skicross athlete. Skiing is a way of life for me.  I will always be a skier. I’m just shifting my focus from racing to freeskiing, allowing myself the freedom and flexibility to focus on other life endeavours. 

When I hurt my knee at the X Games a year after the Olympics, I promised my coaches, and I promised myself that I would do everything in my power to rehabilitate it, and once it was all healed up, I would see if the mental drive to continue racing would come back. 

I am reeaaaally good at coming back from injuries, as I’ve had many… most from sports other than skicross.  In the past, as soon as my injuries had healed up, I’d be dying to get back out there again, and I didn’t think this time would be any different.  I have recovered decently, finally, from the 3rd surgery on this knee, but I’ve decided that it’s more important to me to be able to ski recreationally for the rest of my life than it is to risk hurting it further on a race course through this Olympic cycle, especially if my heart isn’t in it. 

I want to thank my teammates who were with me from the very beginning.  Davey Barr, Chris Del Bosco, Brian Bennett, Dave Duncan and Stanley Hayer were always there to push me to keep at it and to let me follow them down the course in training runs.  Nik Zoricic was good like that too, and I could always count on him for incredibly pragmatic advice on anything from skicross to my love life.  I can’t thank Brian Bennett and Stan Rey enough for all the work they did leading up to the Olympics to make sure that course was built right, and built for us, and of course my ski tech, Josh Wiltz for making sure my Stocklis were lightning fast.  On the women’s side, Julia Murray, Danie Poleschuck and Kelsey Serwa who all had more than enough ability to take that Olympic Gold, when it just turned out to be my day.  I want to thank my skicross coaches, Eric Archer, Brent Kehl, and Willy Raine too, of course, all there to help us get out there and perform, thanks to the Own the Podium Initiative.

I realized over the last couple of months, that the driving factors that were keeping me in the sport were a bit questionable.  A huge part of my motivation to continue racing beyond the 2010 Games was that I felt like I had a responsibility to take on that role as a leader on the Canada Skicross Team, and make sure the up and come-ers — the future of our beloved sport — had me to learn from.   

As I said in that video, the emotion I felt at the end of the Gold Medal Run at the Olympics was relief, and that was purely because I recognized everything that everyone had done to help me along the way, and how much support I had, from family, to teachers, to coaches, leaders within the team, ski techs, to physiotherapists.  I was relieved that I hadn’t let them down at the Olympics, and I didn’t want to let anyone down going forward.  I felt like we had finally put our sport on the map, and I couldn’t just quit.  I have learned, over the years, that you can’t have success if you don’t have that support, but I also know that you won’t have success if you aren’t in it for the right reasons

There are many good reasons to continue racing and as much as I feel like I have a responsibility to keep at it as long as I still have a shot at wining more medals for Canada, I have to do what’s right for ME.  My sport has been my life for the past 20-something years, but there is more to life than competitive sport, and I’ve realized that I also have a responsibility to be a positive role model when it comes to what’s truly important in life, and to know when enough’s enough and that it’s time to move forward and chase different dreams.

And there IS something to be said for going out on top… as  reigning Olympic Champion. 

When I think back on why I got into skicross, and what I’d hoped to get out of it, it leaves me wondering “what’s left”?

I’ve already accomplished everything I’ve ever dreamed I would and so much more, and a few Gold medals and podium results are just the icing on the cake.  As my Mom says, her goal in getting my sister and me into skiing was to see us grow up to love skiing.  For me, it was never about competing or achieving great results until the opportunity came to represent our country in this sport that was built for people like me.  Athletes who love racing their buddies from the top of the mountain to the bottom through gullies, off cliffs, over jumps, all for the thrill of it.  For me it has always been about having fun, and pushing myself.  I have learned a lot about myself throughout the years of ski racing. I’ve learned a lot of valuable life lessons that I will have with me forever.  My career has taught me a lot about persevering and chasing your dreams, tackling goals one step at a time and avoiding getting too overwhelmed by that end result that you’re after.  Working with a team has taught me a lot about group dynamics and relationships, and has allowed me to make lifelong friends and create memories that I will cherish forever.  Competing in an individual sport with those teammates and against those teammates has taught me a lot about leadership and the concept of working together for the greater good of a group, in turn creating a more favourable environment for that the entire group of individuals.  My career has taken me to beautiful places all over the world and given me the opportunity to participate in all sorts of fun events, and to meet a ton of amazing people, including my fiance (thanks to our then mutual sponsor, Bell!).  For these things, I will be forever grateful.  Most of all, I have learned how to take challenges on and I have learned what I’m capable of.  What I’ve realized is that I don’t need to be racing to continue representing what’s important to me.  I can’t wait to take on new challenges and inspire the people who care most about me in other ways.  

I can’t wait to see the No. 1 team in the world go out there an dominate this season.  Look out for that Kelsey Serwa… she’s back from her knee injury and hungry for results!  I will be at Nakiska next weekend cheering them on, and will always be the sports’ biggest fan.  I wish them all the best.

As I said, Of course, I will always be a skier.  I look forward to continuing to represent everything I stood for as a skicross athlete through all sorts of other endeavours, on and off the Mountain, following my heart, chasing new dreams. 

Thank you so much for your ongoing support.  Special thanks to my partners who were supporting me even before the Olympics…

Whistler Blackcomb
Stockli Skis
iSign Media 

And of course, thanks to my sister, my Parents, and my amazing fiance, Jay DeMerit.  #Teammates4Life

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