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Cassie's Way: Defending Olympic champ from Comox battles back to make team for Beijing

The defending 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic champion in women’s ski half-pipe has battled back to rehabilitate her left knee
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Cassie Sharpe is the reigning Olympic champion in women’s ski halfpipe. FREESTYLE CANADA

It will be a study in painstaking perseverance if Cassie Sharpe of Comox makes it back on the Olympic podium next month at the 2022 Beijing Winter Games.

The defending 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic champion in women’s ski half-pipe has battled back to rehabilitate her left knee since the near-devastating torn-ligaments and fractured femur injuries last January at the X Games in Aspen, Colorado, and subsequent surgery.

“I am ready to go kick some butt in Beijing,” she said.

“It was a terrible, terrifying injury. As soon as I hit the ground, I instantly knew how bad it was, and turned to the camera guys and screamed: ‘I’ve blown my knee out!’ But I have worked so hard these past 11 months to try to overcome and get ready for this moment.”

A fourth-place result this month in a World Cup event in Calgary lends an air of optimism.

“It was not my usual placing — I enjoy being on the podium — but I am feeling confident,” said Sharpe.

Sharpe and Teal Harle of Campbell River, heading to his second consecutive Olympics in men’s slopestyle/big air, were among the 24 ski freestylers named Monday to the Canadian team for the Beijing Winter Games. Coaching the Olympic half-pipe team in Beijing will be Marc McDonell of Tofino.

Sharpe and Harle, the latter who was fifth in Pyeongchang 2018, bring to four the number of Island athletes selected so far to the Beijing Olympics. Named earlier were Sharpe’s younger brother Darcy Sharpe of Comox in men’s snowboard freestyle big air/slopestyle and blueliner Micah Zandee-Hart of Saanichton to the women’s hockey team. Adam Cracknell, a forward from Victoria, will reportedly be named to the NHL-less men’s hockey team today.

“Having my brother Darcy competing at the Olympics is going to be absolutely amazing,” said Cassie Sharpe.

“He was so close last time and we just missed out competing together in Pyeonghang.”

“I will still have one piece of my family there with me, despite that our parents [or any fans outside China], are not allowed to attend the Games.”

The sibling Olympics for the Sharpes was made possible by those endless hours spent on the slopes of Mount Washington.

“Neither of us would be where we are without Mount Washington. That’s where we fell in love with the sport,” said Cassie.

“We tried to impress each other and outdo each other in the family, and among our friends, with this flip or that flip while growing up on Mount Washington. We were always pushing each other.”

All the way to Olympic gold for Cassie. Those first few weeks after Pyeongchang in 2018 now seem like a blur – from meeting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to having Cassie’s Run named in her honour on Mount Washington.

“Something was going on all the time,” she recalled.

There still is, even through the rehab. Sharpe, 29, married fellow half-pipe freestyle skier Justin Dorey of Vernon, who competed in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, in a small pandemic-limited ceremony in June. The pair plan on a bigger celebration this summer and Sharpe hopes to have another bit of Olympic hardware among her keepsakes at that time.

“I’m going to Beijing swinging, to bring home another medal,” she said.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com