Physically, Kelsey Serwa believes she's 100 per cent ready for the season's inaugural skicross World Cup races this weekend at Nakiska, Alta.
But Serwa's mind is still a work in progress.
Last season, the Kelowna native was the dominant female racer on the World Cup circuit before suffering a knee injury back in January. Today's qualification races will be her first since being sidelined.
"I have had no physical setbacks with rehab and my knee feels just as strong, if not stronger, than it was at this time last year," said Serwa. "In dealing with traumatic injuries, I have learned that getting back in the game is as much a mental battle as it is a physical one. Right now my body is in top form and I'm sure it could withstand as many G-forces as any high-speed compression into banked turn could throw at it ."
Serwa, 23, isn't so sure about her frame of mind going into today's races.
"Because I haven't had many days racing with a group on a track since my injury, I am slightly lacking on in confidence compared to this time last year," she said, adding that her goals are focused around the process of racing, not on the results.
"I will be building my confidence race by race, always trying to move forward. I'll focus on key elements, such as being eager and aggressive on the track, yet calm and focused in the start gate. Rather than focusing on results I will be filling my mind with positive thoughts and reminding myself of my abilities. This should prepare me for success in the future.
"After all, it's not today or the next day that I need to be exceptional, it's later this year at world champion-ships and next year in Russia.
Serwa, a graduate of the Big White Racers alpine skiing program, switched to skicross in 2008 and adjusted quickly the new discipline.
She finished fifth at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver and enjoyed a spectacular post-Olympic season, claiming world championship gold only a week after injuring her back, thumb and ribs when she crash-landed her way to victory at the 2011 X Games. The Kelowna Secondary School grad says she's looking forward to getting back in action with her teammates this weekend.
"We're a solid team and we all help each other, just like it's been from the beginning. Marielle (Thompson, the 2011 overall World Cup champion) is really confident right now, so I'm just going to feed off her confidence - maybe she'll let me borrow some!"
This weekend's races will also mark the first World Cup event since former teammate Nik Zoricic died in March at a World Cup race in Grindelwald, Switzerland.
"It's been a struggle, losing such a close and inspirational friend, but I feel that all of us Canadians want to perform our best in his honour," said Serwa. "Both on and off the hill, Nik's memory will always stay in our hearts."
In memory of Zoricic, the team will debut a new Descente ski pant designed to look like blue jeans.
"We were at Cypress Mountain for the Olympic-test World Cup event in 2009," recalled Serwa. "At that point Nik had shown potential, but wasn't on the national team. Fresh off the alpine circuit, Nik didn't own a ski-cross racing suit. All he had were baggy snow-pants, which if he wore he could have kissed all chances of qualifying out the window.
"He figured that a slim fit pair of jeans would do the trick! So, Nik proceeded to race his first World Cup looking like a true Canadian - in denim.
"As a fun way to remember Nik's style and comical personality, we will be racing the season in denim-looking pants with a red and white top. We will race in denim, proud to be Nik's teammate and proud to be Canadian."
The FIS World Cup at Nakiska, west of Calgary, will include 190 racers from 25 countries racing for $30,000 in prize money.