“I’ve always been a fighter”: Team and perseverance power Filiatrault’s ski cross bronze

NORTH CREEK, NEW YORK  – Canada’s Liz Filiatrault barely had time to breathe after winning her bronze medal in the women’s ski cross at the Lake Placid 2023 World University Games. 

As soon as she crossed the finish line, her teammates, Kiersten Vincett, Jack Morrow and Charlie Lang, swarmed her, draped her in the Canadian flag and kicked off celebrations amidst a difficult week for their group. 

It was Canada’s first-ever medal in ski cross at the FISU Winter Games.

“It’s been a tough week for us Canadian girls, Filiatrault said moments after the celebration. “I could feel the Czech [Klara Kasparova] right there [in the final], but I was like, ‘I can’t lose this; I can’t let her get this from me.”

Team Canada (Ben Steiner)

The 21-year-old from the University of Calgary was one of four Canadian athletes in a small ski cross field at Gore Mountain and hadn’t had an easy time with the Canadian team at the FISU Games. In the competition, she fell during qualifying and struggled through the round-robin rounds. 

Then her teammate, Kiersten Vincett, felt a charlie horse in her knee and pulled out of the semifinals after crashing in the round robin, leaving just four women competing for medals. While they opted to race the semi as another trial run, Filiatrault made it count in the big final, but it wasn’t always certain, as Kasparova barrelled down on her in the final stages.

“Not my cleanest skiing, I had a decent start, and I thought I was okay with it,” she said of the final. “I came into that first turn, and I thought, if I can just hold on to the Slovakian and ski as clean as an I can, I should be fine. Near the end of the run, it definitely did get a little hairy.”

Meanwhile, Vincett, who entered the day as a medal favourite, and won the qualifying event, had pulled out her film camera at the bottom of the course — face bloodied and all, to capture her teammate’s special moment. 

The week hadn’t been an easy one for the Canadian team, and for Filiatrault, who admits she has struggled to adapt to situations in the past, it wasn’t simple to regain the composure to strive for the podium. 

Not all of Canada’s skis showed up on time in North Creek; warm weather provided poor course conditions for training days, it was a challenging qualifying run for Filiatrault, and constant pullouts from the women’s competition didn’t make anything simple. 

“[The medal] is so rewarding; this entire competition has just been so up and down for me,” she said. ”It’s been really hard, and it‘s taken a lot of practice over the years. I’ve been doing this a long time; I work with a sports psych, and then it’s really my amazing team and my coaches.”

Filiatrault is a member of the Evolve Ski Cross program, as well as a student-athlete with the Calgary Dinos. The teams, who she spends hours on end with, prove to be critical, especially during challenging stretches of unconfidence as she had in New York.

“Going home every day, decompressing,  my family, friends and my teammates, they are what make me, they are what lift me up. They’re there for me,” she said. “We just support each other, and we have a great team atmosphere, and that’s kind of what helps us achieve success.”

Lin Nakanishi (3) of Japan, Nikola Fricova (5) of Slovakia, and Elizabeth Anne Filiatrault (6) of Canada celebrate winning 1st, 2nd, and 3rd respectably at the medals ceremony after the event. Both Men and Women skiers took to the mountain during Ski Cross at the 2023 FISU World University Games on January 16, 2023 in North Creek, New York. (Photo by Bond Demetri Photos/FISU Games)

While she may have lucked her way into a big final with the athlete pullouts, the commerce student knew that she could ski on this hill and thrive when she’s at her best. Ahead of the FISU Games, she had reached FIS and NorAm podiums at Gore Mountain three times, including her first win earlier this season in November. 

Seeing an opportunity in an advantageous spot on a course that she knows helped push Filitraut, yet, it’s her determination that held on by day’s end as she looked down at the bronze medal around her neck. 

“I’ve always been a fighter; I’ve had to fight for my spot in skiing my entire life; people have told me I’m never going to go anywhere, I’m never going to make it, and I’ve always just kind of had to believe in myself, and I didn’t fight this hard to be here to just not get something.”

Extras: Canada’s top result in the men’s competition came from Charlie Lang, who finished eighth overall, while Jack Morrow finished ninth in the round-robin and did not advance to the knockout stages.

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