Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran interviews Kelowna Olympians Tess Critchlow (left) and Kelsey Serwa (right). —Image: Carli Berry/Capital News

Kelowna welcomes home Olympians

Gold medalist Kelsey Serwa and snowboard cross racer Tess Critchlow feted in downtown park

Six weeks after her gold medal win at the PyeongChang Olympics, Kelowna’s Kelsey Serwa, along with her fellow Kelowna Olympian Tessa Critchlow, were officially welcomed home Wednesday.

Mayor Colin Basran sat down for an public, outdoor interview with Serwa, who won gold in womne’s ski cross in South Korea in February, and Critchlow, who finished ninth in women’s snowboard cross in Stuart Park downtown in between the two athletes signing autographs and cutting a celebratory cake.

“Today’s been unreal,” said Serwa. “To be welcomed up here by such a warm and welcoming crowd is so cool. And to do it with Tess who competed in the snowboard cross, yeah, we’re so fortunate to come from this community. You can really feel the warmth.”

Serwa told the 150-strong crowd she is putting her original plan to retire from competition this year on hold. She said she plans to return to UBC Okanagan for another semester of study in the fall and and then try to convince her professors to allow her to write her final exams a little early so she can compete for one more season on the World Cup circuit.

The announcement from the three-time Olympian—who also won a silver medal at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games in Russia—drew applause from the crowd.

Critchlow said she has not made firm plans about her immediate future but will keep racing and hopes to compete at the next Winter Olympics in four years in Beijing, China and better her finish from PyeongChang.

Two weeks ago she won the Canadian women’s snowboard cross championship.

Both young women said they were happy to inspire other young athletes, many of whom showed up at the park to meet their sporting heroes.

But it was not just the kids who wanted to be there for to Kelowna Olympians.

Cathie Pavlik, a teacher at KLO Middle School—who taught Serwa—said she was very proud of her former student.

“She’s so great, a good person and a wonderful athlete,” said Pavlik. “She aspires to all those things you want in an athlete. She’s a good role model. It’s one of those happy endings.”

RELATED: Big White honours gold medalist Kelsey Serwa

Following her chat with the mayor, Serwa showed off both the gold medal she won in South Korea and the silver she won four years ago in Sochi.

Basran told her when he watched on television as she raced in PyeongChang, he could not contain his exuberance as she skied to victory.

“I was shouting at the television and jumping up down,” he said.

Basran said both Serwa and Critchlow are inspiring a whole new generation of young athletes with their tenacity, work ethic, drive and will to win.

Wednesday’s “Welcome Home Celebration” was hosted by the City of Kelowna and PacificSport Okanagan as an opportunity for locals to take pictures, get autographs and speak with the two athletes.

In addition to Serwa and Critchlow, Kelowna was represented by two other athletes at the Winter Games in PyeongChang, Ian Dean in men’s ski cross) and Julia Ransom on biathlon. Neither Dean nor Ransom could attend the celebration in Stuart Park.

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