Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Canadian takes first skicross gold

World Cup win boosts chances of making team for Sochi Games

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SAN CANDIDO, Italy -- Canada's David Duncan claimed his first skicross World Cup victory on Saturday, while fellow Canadian Kelsey Serwa took silver in the women's final.

Duncan's compatriot, Brady Leman, was third, behind Alex Fiva of Switzerland. Switzerland's Armin Niederer was fourth and maintained his lead in the skicross standings.

"I feel like this day has been coming for a long time," said Duncan, who now has five career World Cup podiums but likely needs one more before the end of January to ensure he qualifies for nomination to Canada's team for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

"There's definitely been some ups and downs but I'm elated to finally get this first victory and get this monkey off my back. I don't have the words to describe what this means to me."

The 31-year-old is one of the original members of the Canada skicross team that was formed at the end of 2007 and he led Saturday's final from start to finish to take top honours in the first of two back-to-back World Cup races.

Calgary's Leman battled back from a tough start in the men's final to jump into a podium position and he almost snatched second place with a late push at the line.

Duncan is originally from London, Ont., and now lives in Whistler, B.C.

Serwa, from Kelowna, B.C., continued her fine comeback from injury with her first podium of the year. With their top-three finishes, Serwa and Leman all but confirmed their spots at the Sochi Winter Olympics in February.

Women's world champion Fanny Smith took the overall lead of the skicross standings with her first win of the season.

Duncan, who had previously had one second-place result and three third-place finishes on the World Cup circuit, saw his dream of representing Canada at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games dashed when he suffered a broken collarbone prior to the finals getting underway.

"My injuries have never been debilitating. My knee has been healthy -- it's been the shoulder or the collarbone," Duncan said. "I know what I'm capable of when I'm healthy. I've made winning a World Cup my goal ever since I started. I've been fully dedicated and to finally get this victory means a ton."

Leman, who was also third in the season-opening World Cup race in Nakiska, Alta., played his part in a thrilling final, which saw him battle right to the line with Switzerland's Fiva.

"I had my worst start of the day in the final. I didn't get as good a pump on the first (feature) and got hung up a bit," Leman said. "I made some moves at the bottom but got outreached at the line in a photo finish. Fiva -- the dude has long arms. The start was huge today. It got me into the final and I have another chance tomorrow.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 22, 2013 B16

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