WEST VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Ashleigh McIvor became the first Olympic champion in women’s skicross.

McIvor, a Whistler native who used to ski down the stairs into her parents’ living room, persevered through a typical day of spills and chills on the skicross course Tuesday to help Canada take its sixth gold medal of the games.

”That’s the beauty of skicross,” she said. ”It’s ski racing in its most natural form. Who could go out and represent Canada better than a Whistler girl?”

Hedda Berntsen came in a distant second to McIvor in the final to make Norway the first country to win 300 winter medals, and Marion Josserand of France took bronze.

Canada, meanwhile, is up to six golds, two of which have been won on the same course at Cypress Mountain. McIvor’s victory came one week after Maelle Ricker took gold in snowboardcross. Although some have wondered if the expectations that came with Canada’s $110 million ”Own the Podium” program have worn on the athletes, McIvor looks at it differently.

”I just tried to channel it into positive energy,” she said. ”Realizing that because we’ve had all this funding from OTP, we were so well prepared for this event, and the pressure was really just people who had a whole lot of high expectations for me. That just made me more confident.”

McIvor used the most important strategy there is in skicross — get in front early and stay away from other people.

She never found herself in trouble over her four races, though plenty of others did on a typically wild day for the newest sport at the Olympics.

The day’s very first race was followed by a 20-minute delay after Russia’s Yulia Livinskaya had to be carted off when she lost her balance and landed hard on her backside after a jump at the top of the hill.

Not much later, Frenchwoman Ophelie David, the favorite who had beaten McIvor last month at the Winter X Games, lost her bearings heading into a jump, flailed her arms wildly to try to regain her balance, but fell hard into the snow and out of contention.

”I’m just so, so disappointed for the people who trusted me and supported me,” David said.

 

MEN’S NORDIC SKIING: Austria won the gold medal in the Nordic combined team relay while the U.S. settled for the silver medal after losing a late lead.

American Billy Demong had a slight lead heading into the stadium but stumbled at the turn, and Austrian Mario Stecher sped past him on the straightaway for a 5.2-second victory.

Austria’s winning time in the 4×5-kilometer relay following a jump off the large hill was 49 minutes, 31.6 seconds. Germany won bronze, finishing 19.5 seconds behind the winners.

 

BIATHLON: Russia won the women’s biathlon relay gold medal after Olga Zaitseva easily protected her team’s massive lead on the final leg to secure the victory.

Olga Medvedtseva practically guaranteed the win on the third leg after her quick shooting gave Zaitseva a 45-second head start on German rival Andrea Henkel at the final exchange.

France took the silver after finishing 32.8 seconds behind, and Germany held on for the bronze, 37.1 seconds back.

 

WOMEN’S BOBSLED: The USA-2 sled of Erin Pac and Elana Myers was in second place midway through the competition. The Americans set a track record in their second run, only to have the Canada 1 crew lower it by four-hundredths of a second.

Two other U.S. tandems were tied for sixth.

 

WOMEN’S CURLING: Reigning world champion China converted its final shot of the 10th end to hand the U.S. a 6-5 loss in its next-to-last match.

 

MEN’S HOCKEY: The United States’ men’s hockey team will start the medal round just as it began the preliminaries — with a matchup against Switzerland, a seemingly overmatched yet dangerous opponent in the Olympic quarterfinals today.

The eighth-seeded Swiss earned the right to play the No. 1 Americans by beating Belarus 3-2 in a shootout Tuesday.

The United States beat Switerland 3-1 last Tuesday. Should the Americans win, they won’t have to worry about Russia, Canada or Sweden until the gold-medal game.

n A revived Canadian hockey team beat Germany 8-2, setting up a superpower showdown against Russia that will occur much earlier than expected.

Shea Weber had a goal that left scorch marks in the net, leading to a three-goal second period, and Jarome Iginla scored twice for Canada.