February 18, 2006
Ricker goes one way, dreams go another

BARDONECCHIA, Italy -- Maelle Ricker didn't know where or who she was. She didn't know what had happened. She knew she was at the Olympics. She just wasn't aware her Olympics were over.

Ricker, 27, from North Vancouver, was taken down the mountain in what is known as a blood wagon after an on-course crash -- of her own doing -- in the gold-medal snowboard cross race she very well could have won.

One minute she seemed like the champion in waiting. The next minute her neck was placed in a brace and she was being whisked by helicopter to a hospital in Turin. She was later released.

Ricker had been the dominant racer in the field, posting the best times in the preliminary, quarter-final and semi-final races heading towards the four-woman final.

"She was killing everyone," the American team coach, Peter Foley, said.

Added Canadian coach Rene Brunner: "It should have been Maelle winning. She was getting faster. She made no mistakes all day."

Well, she did make one mistake and it came in the wild final, which seems to be the only kind of final that happens in this new and crazed Olympic sport.

"She came out with too much speed and she overshot the whoop," Brunner said of Ricker, who has come back from eight knee operations.

"She was going too fast. She caught an edge and she landed on her back. I went back and looked at the spot in the snow. You could see it.

"The board goes one way, the body goes another. It's happened to all of us."

"The doctor said it was a concussion," said Drew Neilson, the male snowboarder who suffered similar misfortune without similar injury the day previously. "She was destroying the fields in the time trials. She was the best out there today."

Ricker didn't finish her race but did finish fourth in the event, another one of the quirks of snowboard cross still to be worked out.







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