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West Van athlete named to Canada's Olympic ski cross team

Alcuin College students Matthew W. (left) and Elliot C join Canadian Olympian ski cross team member Georgia Simmerling as she holds her nephew Hunter before giving a presentation about goal setting.  - Michaela Garstin
Alcuin College students Matthew W. (left) and Elliot C join Canadian Olympian ski cross team member Georgia Simmerling as she holds her nephew Hunter before giving a presentation about goal setting.
— image credit: Michaela Garstin

Even a broken back and neck didn't get in the way of Georgia Simmerling's goal to be part of the 2014 Canadian Olympic ski cross team.

She firmly believes in setting goals — and sticking to them.

With just two weeks notice, she will be Sochi bound this Friday to join her five teammates at Olympic headquarters.

"I was sitting on a couch in a big body brace. Instead of giving up, I became mentally stronger," she tells an assembly of Alcuin College students in North Vancouver on Jan. 30.

A former alpine skier who represented Canada at the 2010 Vancouver Games, she switched to ski cross, "a crazy new sport," and made the national team in fall 2011.

The next year, however, she broke her neck and back at her first ski cup world race.

But through hard work, optimism and some luck, she made a complete recovery from her life-threatening injuries.

"While I was injured, instead of giving up, I worked on my mind. I became mentally stronger.

"I needed a goal — that was to make it to the Olympics again."

And that is exactly what Simmerling did.

Growing up in West Van, she spent countless hours on the North Shore mountains. At the age of 14 she quit her other sports to focus on ski racing full time.

She made the provincial Alpine skiing team, then the national team and finally had set her sights on the 2010 Olympics, where she competed on home turf.

"It's never easy to achieve your goals. It's always going to be a struggle," the 24-year-old tells the students, many dressed in red-and-white Olympic garb.

"I really hope that each one of you can find a passion, a goal. It doesn't have to be sports, it can be anything."

Currently ranked sixth in the world, Simmlerling's newest goal is to bring Canada home a medal in ski cross, a sport she jokingly calls the "dark side" of ski racing.

Often considered part of freestyle skiing, the sport was first included in the 2010 Olympics. It's a timed competition that incorporates both natural terrain and artificial features such as jumps, rollers and banks.

Simmerling is scheduled to compete at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games on Feb. 8.

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