TURIN, Italy -- It's no wonder Canadian snowboarder Dominique Maltais is so successful on the international scene.
If you can handle the pressure of fighting fires, you can handle competitive sport.
Competing comes naturally for the 25-year-old Montreal firefighter, who was called a natural athlete by one of her coaches.
Maltais refers to her fire department colleagues as team members and believes putting out fires is like a game.
Calm under pressure, she took up snowboarding only five years ago and has climbed the competitive ladder to No. 1 in the world.
She's been melting the snow underneath her everywhere she goes, winning a gold and a silver on the World Cup circuit this season in snowboard cross, which is in the Olympics for the first time.
Cross involves going down the course with three others in tow.
Maltais loves her job and her hobby and couldn't say which one she prefers most, or which draws the most adrenaline.
But once she hears the alarm at the station, she goes into competitive mode.
"When you have a fire, everybody gets into the truck, you drive to the fire. You fight the fire together. It's like a big game for everybody," said Maltais, a Francophone.
Sporting a white bandanna in her hair and with sunglasses on her head, she drew a pack of journalists yesterday at a news conference in the main press centre.
Maltais, who said she's never had to carry someone out of a burning building, is on leave from the Montreal fire department so she could train and compete in her first Olympics.
The snowboarding competition begins Sunday and Maltais sees action Feb. 17.
The only thing she doesn't like about competing is the jealousy among the athletes.
"I hate it when some girl is looking at you really bad because you beat her in time trials. I'm a pretty smooth girl. I would like everybody to love everybody."
Her snowboarding career runs -- or slides -- parallel to her professional career.
She got her full-time firefighting job two years ago, the same time she landed on the national team.
Besides her World Cup success, Maltais also won the snowboard competition at the World Police and Fire Games last year in Quebec City.
Martin Jensen, head coach and high performance director for the Canadian team, said Maltais is a strong and natural athlete, but her best asset is her work ethic.
"Dominique is a very strong-willed, determined character. She's a leader by example. She has a very promising future ahead of her towards 2010."
Jensen was thrilled when snowboard cross was added to the Games.
"Canada has been extremely successful in this sport. We believe we've got medal potential with a number of our athletes," he said.
Maltais is one of them.
She'll go back to her firefighting colleagues a hero if she wins an Olympic medal.