Mir, McIvor set sights on future
Friday, June 15, 2012 - 08:00
MMA fighter Frank Mir and Canadian Olympic ski cross gold medallist Ashleigh McIvor were in Thunder Bay on Thursday.
Frank Mir is already plotting for life beyond the Ultimate Fighting Championship cage. So too is Canadian ski cross racer Ashleigh McIvor, who hungers for one last shot at Olympic glory.
Despite differences in their athletic backgrounds, Mir and McIvor — this year’s guests at the Thunder Bay Sports Celebrity Dinner held Thursday at the Valhalla Inn — have more in common than one thinks.
“I’ll tell stories from sport and my Olympic experience,” said the 28-year-old Whistler, B.C., native. “Inspirational stories are a lot of things people can relate to in what we do in sport. Sport is a metaphor for life in general.”
McIvor, who won gold in women’s skicross at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, admits she isn’t the world’s biggest mixed martial arts fan, but knows Mir has gone through the same sacrifices to climb the top of his world.
“The mental aspects,” McIvor said. “Just how to prepare, how to remain calm, how to utilize all of your skill set.”
For the 33-year-old Mir, Thursday’s trip to Canada is part of some healing and regrouping time. The former UFC world heavyweight champion and Las Vegas native is coming off a TKO loss to Junior dos Santos in a title fight on May 25.
Even though he plans to continue fighting, the outspoken Mir has already been trading his shorts and gloves for a suit cageside.
“I like analyzing fights and I like doing colour commentating,” Mir said. “It’s an opportunity I would take advantage of when I run into it. Hopefully it’s something I can do full time.”
A possible foray into professional wrestling isn’t out of the question either.
“Not opposed to the idea,” Mir said. “I can’t do a back flip or anything.”
Landing a UFC star was something new for celebrity dinner co-organizer Dave Ferguson, whose event raised money for the Thunder Bay Boys and Girls Club.
“We try to mix it up. It worked out great,” said Ferguson. “When I first contacted the agent and booked Frank, he didn’t have the title fight (against dos Santos) yet. (Alastair) Overeem tested positive and our guy was in and I was like, ‘Great!’”
Mir joked his travels take him to so many cities that he loses track of where he is — but he doesn’t let that affect how is speeches turn out at these dinners.
“I pretty much just shoot from the hip. It used to drive my wife nuts, but now she knows I just go with the flow,” said Mir, who has fought Tank Abbott, Brock Lesnar and Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera during his 11-year UFC career — the longest current run in his weight class. “It’s just like fighting. You walk in there and you can only plan so much, but once the bell rings it just kind of happens. You’ve got to know what you’re doing.”
McIvor knows that she’s on the long road to return to the Olympics. A torn ligament in McIvor’s knee cut her season short. She’s still on the recovery trail; she even received a scope just three weeks ago.
“The plan is to get back on the snow in mid-August . . . and then be good to go for this season, hopefully get a good result at world championships and then be set up for another good result at the Olympics,” said McIvor, whose family owns a cabin near Kenora and her boyfriend has property on she calls the “other side of Lake Superior.”
“(Thunder Bay) kind of feels familiar,” she added.
McIvor does promise one thing: An appearance at the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia will be her last hurrah as an amateur.
“That will be it. If you see me competing after 2014, track me down and say, ‘Hey! That’s it. You’re done!’” she stressed with a smile.
“I love racing. I love ski cross. There’s more to life than sport. Sport is my life right now, but there’s more to life than sport.”
During Thursday’s dinner, Dr. George Gwozdecky was named the recipient of the Chris Ferguson Sr. Memorial Award for his service as a Thunder Bay sports builder. Gwozdecky, the father of University of Denver men’s hockey head coach George Jr., was director and doctor of sports organizations in soccer, tennis, hockey, football, running and water skiing.
Dr. Gwozdecky, who was inducted into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in 1988, is a member of the Canadian Council of Sports Medicine and was the Chief Medical Officer for Team Canada at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal.
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June 1, 2012. 11:51 am •
Canada named it’s 2012-13 ski cross team Friday.
It’s a formidable group. There are four men and four women, all of them already medal winners on the World Cup circuit.
Whistler’s Ashleigh McIvor, the 2010 Olympic champion and Kelowna’s Kelsey Serwa, the reigning world champion, are both hoping to come back from injury.
Whistler’s Marielle Thompson, only 19, will be out to defend the Crystal Globe she won as the overall World Cup leader last year. Calgary’s Danielle Poleschuk, who is returning after missing last season due injuries.
The men’s team consists of reigning X Games and world champion Chris Del Bosco of Montreal and Calgary’s Brady Leman, who placed second in the overall World Cup standings last season. Dave Duncan of London, Ont., hit the podium twice last year. In his first whole season on the World Cup circuit, 22-year-old Tristan Tafel of Canmore, Alta., got his first victory.
“We have very strong programs on both the men’s and women’s side and we have set some big goals for the coming season,” Alpine Canada director of sport for ski cross Dave Ellis said in a release.
“We want to remain No. 1 in the world and will be gunning for a men’s or women’s overall title again.”
Canada has won the Nations Cup as the overall circuit’s top team four straight years. Defending that title is important, but there are other fish to fry this season.
“It’s a world championship year and we will be going for more podiums there,” Ellis said.
“We are also into the Olympic qualification cycle so the pressure starts to build from here. When Ashleigh returns we will have three world champions and eight athletes who have had World Cup podiums. We’re looking forward to having everyone back.”
Naming the men’s team wasn’t easy. Toronto’s Nik Zoricic died after a crash at a World Cup race in Grindelwald, Switzerland, last March.
”It’s been tough naming an all-star team without the inclusion of a great friend and teammate to us all, Nik Zoricic,” Ellis said. “Nik will be dearly missed on the circuit but he will live on with us all in spirit as we continue to push forward in the quest for podiums.”
Three members of the 2011-12 team have retired – Julia Murray and Davey Barr of Whistler and Quesnel’s Brian Bennett. Stan Ray, another Whistler skier has decided to take up freeskiing.
But the pipeline continues to flow. Former World Cup alpine racer Louis-Pierre Helie of Berthierville, Que., will do ski cross this year and will start the season with the team’s prospect training group. That squad includes West Vancouver’s Georgia Simmerling, another ex-alpine racer who made two World Cup ski cross starts last year and 2012 NorAm champions Ian Deans of Kelowna and Mariannick Therer of Saint Sauveur, Que.
Eric Archer returns as head coach.