Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Larisa Yurkiw defies the odds to ski at Sochi Games

Larisa Yurkiw of Canada speeds down the course during the 3rd Ladies' Downhill training run at the Lake Louise Winterstart World Cup in Lake Louise, Alta. Thursday, November 29, 2012.

The Canadian Press

If the sheer come-from-behind determination has a face among the Canadian athletes at the Sochi Olympics, it belongs to Larisa Yurkiw.

In 2009, the alpine skier from Owen Sound, Ont., who had won silver in the 2008 FIS Junior World Ski Championships, destroyed her left knee. The injury that kept her out of competition for two years, ensuring she was a no-show at the Vancouver Olympics.

If that weren't pain enough, she was dropped from the Canadian alpine ski team last year.

Story continues below advertisement

On Thursday, she was doing a training run on the downhill course at the Sochi Olympics. Against all odds, Yurkiw is back on the Canadian team and aiming high. Her goal? "A medal," she says. "No one remembers fourth."

Yurkiw simply refused to give up after the Canadian team told her, with regrets, that they couldn't afford to fund her. In April of last year, she founded Team Larisa Racing to keep herself in the game as a solo act. With coach Kurt Mayr at her side, she raised $150,000 from sponsors, including Starlight Investment, the Georgian Peaks Club, Rossignol and the Buduchnist Credit Union in Toronto, which caters to Ukrainian Canadians.

Mayr rebuilt her confidence and pretty much took over her life, right down to the smallest details.

"I didn't even know the price of a ski pass," Yurkiw says. "I had never bought one before. All of those things cam out of our budget."

The funding, the coaching and a fully operational knee conspired in her favour. In early December at Lake Louise, she posted her career-best world cup downhill result with a seventh. In mid-January, she improved with a sixth-place finish at Altenmarkt, Austria. That was enough to land her back on the Canadian team, just in time for Sochi.

It was a mad scramble to get prepared for the Olympics. At one point, it appeared that Mayr would not be able so secure a visa. He got one in record time.

Yurkiw is competing in the downhill, Super G and combined events at Sochi and expects her best result to come in the downhill. She says she likes the downhill course, feels good and will give it everything she's got on race day next week. But even if she does not win the medal she seeks, she will know that just making it to Sochi after such a string of horrific setbacks is victory itself.

Story continues below advertisement

"It's a huge honour to be here," she says. "I'm thrilled."

Report an error Licensing Options
About the Author
European Columnist

Eric Reguly is the European columnist for The Globe and Mail and is based in Rome. Since 2007, when he moved to Europe, he has primarily covered economic and financial stories, ranging from the euro zone crisis and the bank bailouts to the rise and fall of Russia's oligarchs and the merger of Fiat and Chrysler. More


The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

Please note that our commenting partner Civil Comments is closing down. As such we will be implementing a new commenting partner in the coming weeks. As of December 20th, 2017 we will be shutting down commenting on all article pages across our site while we do the maintenance and updates. We understand that commenting is important to our audience and hope to have a technical solution in place January 2018.

Discussion loading… ✨