Cassie Sharpe, Rachael Karker pick up Olympic silver, bronze in freeski halfpipe: ‘Canada doesn’t mess around’ – Toronto Sun

Sharpe is coming off a torn ACL, MCL and fractured femur. The injury, surgery and recovery kept her off skis for much of the Games’ lead-up

Cassie Sharpe of Team Canada reacts after their third run during the Women's Freestyle Freeski Halfpipe Final on Day 14 of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.
Cassie Sharpe of Team Canada reacts after their third run during the Women’s Freestyle Freeski Halfpipe Final on Day 14 of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. Photo by Ezra Shaw /Getty Images

ZHANGJIAKOU — Unlike two Canadian teammates, Amy Fraser did not medal in women’s freeski halfpipe Friday morning.

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But she should get something for concise summation.

“Canada doesn’t mess around,” Fraser said after watching Cassie Sharpe — the 2018 gold medalist — take Olympic silver on Friday, and Rachael Karker capture bronze.

Eileen Gu, the 18-year-old American-born freestyle skier who is competing for China, won gold on a windy, frigid day at Genting Snow Park. It was Gu’s third medal of these Games. She earlier took gold in big air and silver in slopestyle.

Sharpe’s silver comes after a lengthy period of rehab to repair a torn ACL and MCL, as well as a fractured femur. She admits to feeling immense pressure as the reigning gold medalist, mixed with a sense of gratitude for actually being there, despite spending just over three months on skis.

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“I wrote in my journal last night,” Sharpe said. “It was a note to future self: No matter what happened today, I’m proud of myself.”

Bodies take beatings on those halfpipes, but Sharpe’s X Games injury was a special case, knocking her out of commission for nine months. Her surgery was a year ago Thursday.

“There’s a saying, ‘to hell and back,’ ” Sharpe said. “And that’s what I would describe it as. The first six weeks after surgery, I went to hell. I luckily have a very supporting family that helped pull me out of that and get me back on track, and give me a kick in the butt to say ‘no matter what you do, you’ve got to keep trying.’

“Once I got functioning again, enough to walk around and be my own person … I started going to physio, I started going to massage and doing all these things to make sure I was feeling comfortable. And once I got on snow in November, I really flipped the switch, and was like ‘there’s an absolute chance I can make this happen.’ I did everything in my power to do that.”

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Friday’s skiers dealt with uphill gusts and fresh snow from the night before that slowed the halfpipe. Sharpe got better each run, all of them high quality — her scores improving from 89.00 to 90.00 to 90.75

Gu put down a winning 95.25 with her second run, and Karker’s 87.75 on her first trip down the halfpipe stood up for the bronze medal.

“I was at the top, watching everyone’s scores come in, hoping I wouldn’t get bumped off the podium,” said Karker, who edged out the 87.00 posted by Estonia’s Kelly Sildaru. “They all had the potential, so I was feeling the nerves.”

Karker, now 24 and from Erin, Ont., watched from Canada when Sharpe captured gold four years ago. She just missed making the PyeongChang team, and was designated the first alternate. There’s no travel with that position.

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“It was really heartbreaking for me last Games,” she said. “I wasn’t ready to medal then, so coming into these Games as a medal contender was amazing. I can’t believe how far I’ve come in the last four years, and I’m super proud.”

Fraser, a 26 year old from Calgary, placed eighth among 12 finalists in her first Olympics. She put up a top score of 75.25.

Sharpe, meanwhile, piled up the last three months of training into one big-statement day on the halfpipe.

“Coming into today, I realized it was going to take a lot to be on the podium,” said the 29-year-old from North Vancouver. “These young athletes are so talented, and they’re all coming out swinging. I knew I had to do the same. It’s kind of surreal still, and I’m still jumbled up in my head. But I’m so proud of how far I’ve come in the last year.”

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She answered without pause when asked to compare her two medals — the gold in 2018, and the silver on Friday.

“Four years ago, going into the Games, I knew I had a very good chance at gold,” she said. “I went into it knowing I could do that. Coming to these Games, after being out for nine months, I knew it was going to take a lot to just be on the podium. This feels incredibly special. I’m incredibly proud of myself, and I’m grateful to have put all the pieces together today.”

Fraser, meanwhile, entertained reporters for several minutes after coming off the course. She talked about the tough conditions, and offered praise for the medalists.

“If you’ve got the right wax on your skis and the fire in your heart, I guess you can make it happen,” she said.

kemitchell@postmedia.com

twitter.com/kmitchsp

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