Whistler's Ashleigh McIvor and the Canadian ski cross team launched their World Cup season on Saturday in Innichen, Italy, with McIvor leading the team on the first day with a podium appearance.
McIvor placed second in the opening race, ahead of the usually dominating Ophelie David of France, but behind Anna Holmlund of Sweden.
Also for Canada, Kelsey Serwa was 12 th , Danielle Poleschuk 16 th and Julia Murray 18 th .
The Canadian men had a rougher day. Whistler's Davey Barr was the top racer, in 21 st place. Nick Zoricic was 22 nd and Stanley Hayer 24 th .
McIvor, the reigning World Champion, entered the race with a sprained lower back from training earlier in the season. As a result, she opted to miss her training runs on race day so she wouldn't irritate the joint on a course that had no berms on the corners and featured jumps with flat landings and no transitions.
"They seem to have forgotten the landings to go with the jumps, so no matter what you did on each run there were several hard landings," she said. "Our bodies took quite a beating over the last few days."
McIvor said she has made peace with her injury and accepted the fact that she will likely be sore for the duration of the season.
"It's not going to slow me down or keep me off the hill, but it probably will be a bit of a nagging injury through the season," she said. "Ski cross is all about injury management. You're going to crash, it's a given, so it's all how you deal with it... it's all about who has the best physiotherapist!"
Overall the normally dominating Canadian team considered the World Cup opener to be a wakeup call, especially on the men's side.
"The men got beat today and they know that," said head coach Eric Archer. "But the first race of the season is always like that, training/racing against your teammates and racing against other nations are two completely different things and we just need to get this one behind us to set the bar of expectation. I suspect we will see a very different outcome tomorrow."
On Tuesday, the team was back in action on the same course. Whistler's Julia Murray bounced back from a frustrating first day to make the finals and finish fourth. McIvor missed a pole plant in her semi-final race and was relegated to the small final race, that she won. She wound up fifth.