Halfpipe skiing champion Cassie Sharpe finished first in qualifying runs Wednesday for the weekend’s competition with 93.75 points. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Canada’s Sharpe riding high into halfpipe season as Olympic champ

Cassie Sharpe gained a boost in popularity this year when she returned from Pyeongchang with an Olympic gold medal.

The halfpipe skiing champion was name-dropped in a tweet by Canadian actor and Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds, saw a little girl dressed up as her for Halloween, and even got her face on a pair of socks owned by the prime minister.

Sharpe, who dazzled on the Pyeongchang pipe, nailing jump after jump en route to her first-place finish, gave Prime Minister Justin Trudeau the special socks during a meet and greet at Parliament Hill with other Olympic medallists in May.

The idea originated after the Comox, B.C., skier saw socks adorned with Trudeau’s face on them in a tourist shop in Vancouver and bought them to wear to the meeting.

“I told one of my friends about it and she was like: ‘you should get socks with your face on them and give them to him.’ So yeah, I gave the Prime Minister socks with my face on them,” Sharpe said with a laugh in a phone interview with The Canadian Press.

“I ordered these stupid socks and when I met him I gave them to him and he was like: ‘oh my gosh this is so funny.’

“He said people always give him stuff with his face on them so I was like: ‘you know what? Funny you should say that,’ and I pulled up my pant leg and showed him my socks with his face on them.”

The visit to the Canadian capital was just one of the highlights for Sharpe in a summer that also saw her take some much-needed time to herself after years of virtually non-stop training for her Olympic debut.

She went to Mexico, Disney World and Japan over a three-month break. Now that she’s back on snow in the Colorado mountains, Sharpe is ready to defend her World Cup points title at her season-opening event at Copper Mountain.

Sharpe finished first in qualifying runs Wednesday for the weekend’s competition with 93.75 points. Fellow Canadian Rachael Karker will also compete in the final after qualifying in fourth place.

Copper Mountain has traditionally proved a tough event for Sharpe, who called the halfpipe there her “nemesis.” Three years ago she took a tumble on the Copper Mountain course while doing one of her easier tricks and has had trouble turning off those negative feelings associated with it since.

“I think coming into last year I was only thinking about that (fall) and I wasn’t aggressive, I wasn’t enjoying skiing it, I had so much on the back of my mind,” said Sharpe, who’s spent the last few weeks training in Austria for the upcoming season.

“I think this year coming into it I’ve tried to only have positivity about it and not dwell on something that happened three seasons ago. We’ll see how it goes but I’m definitely trying to emote more positive vibes toward this pipe.”

Sharpe capped the 2017-18 halfpipe campaign with a World Cup victory in France a month after winning Olympic gold. The 26-year-old won two other World Cup competitions last year and added to her medal haul with a Dew Tour gold and an X Games bronze.

While the next Olympic Games is still three years away, Sharpe said she’s not taking it any easier this season. The pressure to maintain her top ranking is serving as her motivation.

“I definitely feel the pressure of being the athlete on top,” Sharpe said. “I feel like it’s more performing on demand — like I have to always be on and skiing my best to maintain that spot and that pressure and expectation that I’m going to do that. That’s what I feel more, but I’m for sure my worst critic. I’m the person who pushes myself the most.

“My family, my coaches, my team, no one is putting that pressure on me. So I’m trying to just be more positive and go out there with a more fun (attitude) instead of that heavy, competitive vibe all the time.

“I just want to have fun with this season.”

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