US, Canadian snow boarders trade barbs

Neilson: This is our yard

By STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency

VANCOUVER — Canadian snow boarder Drew Neilson had a message for his American rivals on Wednesday: The medal podium is not for rent.

“This is our yard,” said Neilson. “The Americans have a strong team, there’s no doubt about that. (But) we’ve been training hard and we’ve had lots of support and we’re well-prepared and the rent will be unaffordable.”

Neilson’s comments were in response to some boastful words by his U.S snow board cross rival Nate Holland who said: “Everyone says that Canada will own the podium. That’s fine by us. We’ll just rent it for the month.”

A number of foreign athletes getting ready to compete at the Vancouver Olympics have jumped on the Canadian initiative called Own The Podium, which has provided increased support to Canadian athletes in the hopes of the Canadian team finishing first overall in Vancouver.

American short track speed skating legend Apolo Ohno suggested on Tuesday that the Canadians allow the Americans to “borrow the podium” during the Olympics.

But if there is one athlete on the Canadian Olympic team burning to own the podium perhaps more than anyone else, it could be Neilson’s teammate, Maelle Ricker of Squamish, B.C. who was the top seeded athlete in the women’s snowboard cross at the 2006 Turin Games, only to crash in the final and suffer numerous injuries, including a concussion. This season, Ricker is ranked first overall on the World Cup and has won three races.

“I’m ready to finish some business next week, that’s for sure,” said Ricker, when asked about her experience in Turin.

The women’s snowboard cross final in Turin has become the stuff of legends and, in fact, every finalist in the race, with the exception of gold medallist Tanja Frieden of Switzerland, is Vancouver for another shot at the gold. Ricker crashed first near the top of the course followed by teammate Dominique Maltais of Petite-Riviere-St.Francois, Que., who also crashed.

And then, American Lindsey Jacobellis, with a big lead closing in on the finish line, attempted a trick on the last jump, only to fall and watch Frieden pass her for the gold. Jacobellis was second and Maltais third. Ricker was taken down the course on a blood wagon and later air-lifted to a hospital.

“I think the three of us all have some demons to fight back from from Torino,” said Ricker. “We’d be lying if we said we didn’t.”

POLL