Julia Murray one of Canadas top skier cross athletes heading into 2010 Games

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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WHISTLER, B.C. It seems fitting that Julia Murray has found her niche in a sport that incorporates both freestyle and alpine skiing.

After all, both are in her blood.

The 19-year-old is the daughter of the late Dave Murray, one of the original Crazy Canucks who dominated downhill skiing in the 1970s and early 80s, and Stephanie Sloan, a three-time world champion freestyle skier.

Born and raised in the resort town of Whistler, Murray was on skis before she could walk and started alpine racing at eight.

Its a bit of a family thing, she said during a recent interview. You cant grow up in Whistler and not love skiing.

But just last season, she made the switch from alpine to skier cross, an event similar to motocross racing on snow. Shes already had some success on the international stage to become one of Canadas top-ranked skier cross racers. Her timing is good given that the sport will make its Olympic debut at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.

Last season, Murray won two Europa Cup developmental events and the King of the Mountain ski cross competition in Sun Valley, Idaho. Given that she was so new to the sport, Murrays results shocked coaches and Canadian officials.

Julias performance last season came as a surprise because it usually takes a bit of time to make the switch from alpine to skier cross, said Andrew Squires of Canadian Ski Cross, the national governing body for the sport. Her achievements were expected but perhaps not that soon. Julia literally rose to the occasion.

Murray lost her dad to skin cancer when she was just 22 months old but she has inherited both of her parents drive and athletic talent.

My Dad played a huge role in the ski world and if it werent for the Crazy Canucks, alpine racing would not be the same, Murray said. In a way its the same with skier cross. We are a next generation of Crazy Canucks blazing a new path. So in a very real sense, I am following my dads footsteps. My mom is also my biggest supporter and keeps me on track.

Murray and the rest of the Canadian skier cross team have been training all summer and will have one more camp in Colorado before the start of the competitive season.

In skier cross, six athletes compete head to head against bumps, turns, the clock and each other. The course is designed to test the skiers skills incorporating rolls, banks, turns and ridges similar to those found on a normal ski slope. Physical endurance and strength play a key role as ski cross athletes complete four to five runs lasting 60 seconds or longer.

After her first race Murray was hooked.With her blond hair and striking blue eyes, the five-foot-seven Murray comes across as laid back and unassuming off the course. But its a different story on the track. Her coaches call her a pit bull because once in the lead Murray doesnt let go.

Its a strategy she hopes will help land her on the podium in 2010.

Organizations: Canadian Ski Cross

Geographic location: WHISTLER, Vancouver, Europa Sun Valley, Idaho Colorado

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