In this exclusive interview, the 25-year-old ski cross champion delves into a career-changing injury and has a message for Canadians living with arthritis.

Mediaplanet: What was it like representing Canada in two Olympic games?

Kelsey Serwa: I feel like representing Canada is one of the most spectacular things that you can do as an athlete for your country. At the Olympics you’re not only racing for yourself, you’re racing for everyone at home and everyone in your country — and everyone who’s cheering you on. 

MP: A couple of years ago you had a life-changing accident. Can you describe what happened when you injured your knee?

KS: It was in the 2011-2012 winter season and I was leading the World Cup Ski Cross standings. We were in France and racing in the final heat of the day to settle out who would land a spot on the Alpe D’Huez World Cup Podium.  I found myself a little behind out of the gate and was trying to catch up. I made some risky maneuvers and went off a jump in a flat spin 360, missed the landing zone completely, and tore the anterior crucial ligament in my left knee.  The biggest shock of it was how fast I went from being the best in the world to being knocked down to ground zero. 

MP: In that moment when you learned about the severity of your injury, what else went through your mind?

KS: It was hard, physically because I was in a lot of pain — but also mentally. I knew the road to recovery wasn’t going to be easy and it would take a lot of extra work to get back to the level I was at before. Knowing this was going to be challenging gave me more motivation to work through it and push harder to come out positively on the other end.  I believe we are not shaped as individuals by the things that happen in our lives; we are shaped by the way we choose to deal with adversities, whether that be overcoming them of letting them overcome you. 

“I believe we are not shaped as individuals by the things that happen in our lives; we are shaped by the way we choose to deal with adversities”

MP: When were you diagnosed with arthritis?

KS: I’ve had two knee surgeries in the last two years — I guess it’s almost three years now. It wasn’t until I had an MRI leading up to my second knee injury did I discover there were some signs of arthritic growth in my knee joint. 

MP: What specific changes did you make to your athletic life and your everyday life to manage your arthritis?

KS: I actually haven’t made any huge changes because at this elite level we’re healthy and active. Working with our team’s personal trainer, Craig Hill, we did change the type of training I was doing. We began to limit aggressive impact by changing the volume of jumping that I was doing in my workout programs. 

MP: What is the message you would like to pass on to Canadians who are also living with arthritis?

KS: I feel like the most important thing we can do is take control of our lives. It’s simple little things like choosing to walk up the stairs instead of taking the elevator, just getting our joints moving. Maintaining a healthy body weight and being active, I feel, is the best thing we can do as Canadians to ensure a better quality of life in dealing with arthritis.