Ricker explodes for snowboard gold

By BOB MACKIN, QMI Agency


Canadian Olympic Snowboard team member, Maëlle Ricker who was born and raised in North Vancouver, B.C., and now lives in Whistler B.C., is seen after final snowboard cross race where she finished in 1st place capturing a gold medal at Cypress Mountain in West Vancouver, B.C., on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2010. STEPHANIE LAMY/QMI AGENCY

WEST VANCOUVER -- The fog lifted at Cypress Mountain Tuesday and Maelle Ricker became the first Canadian woman to win Olympic gold at home.

Ricker, a 31-year-old, beat Deborah Anthonioz of France and Olivia Nobs of Switzerland in the women’s snowboard cross final. World champion Helen Olafsen of Norway crashed midway.

"I tried to explode out of the gate, I really wanted to get out of that gate as fast as I can,” said Ricker. "It was really, really hard today to get a clean run all the way down the course, but I just held on and did my best."

The North Vancouver native who grew up near Cypress was the undisputed favourite after winning three of five World Cup races this season and placing third in another.

Ricker’s win was the biggest snowboarding victory for Canada since Ross Rebagliati took the Olympic gold medal in giant slalom at Nagano 1998. Ricker also made her Olympic debut at Nagano, finishing fifth in halfpipe. Tuesday’s win was redemption for Turin in 2006, where Ricker finished fourth in snowboard cross despite crashing before the finish line.

“Turin was such a motivator for me, it just made me work that much harder and just go for it for today,” Ricker said.

Ricker’s American rival Lindsey Jacobellis, the Turin silver medallist, was eliminated from contention in the semifinal. The two appeared to make contact early in the race. Jacobellis was the consolation final winner.

“I don’t think we clipped, we were definitely really close right out of the start, and I don’t know what happened to her,” Ricker said. “I don’t know where she went down, I just tried to stay on my line and focus on what I was doing.”

Turin bronze medallist Dominique Maltais of Petite-Riviere-St-Francois, Que., was eliminated after she crashed in both qualifying runs.

Cypress is Canada’s most lucrative venue of the 2010 Games. Montreal moguls skier Alexandre Bilodeau captured Canada’s historic first home-won gold medal on Sunday at Cypress. On Monday, Mike Robertson of Edmonton got silver in the men’s snowboardcross.

The West Vancouver resort has also provided the Vancouver Olympic organizing committee, known as VANOC, with its biggest weather challenges. Warm and wet El Nino-influenced weather wiped snow off the slopes in January. More than 350 truckloads of snow were brought 160 kilometres from Allison Pass in Manning Provincial Park to salvage competitions.

bob.mackin@sunmedia.ca

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