Canadian snowboarder Dominique Maltais won the bronze medal in the snowboard cross race at the 2011 FIS Snowboard world championships in La Molina, Spain on Tuesday, while teammate Maëlle Ricker fell in the final and finished fourth.
The result marks the first time in four races that the dominant duo didn’t both win medals in the same event. And it’s Maltais’ first loss after three straight wins.
“It’s been an exceptional start to the 2011 season,” Maltais said heading in to the worlds. “I feel in the greatest shape of my career, as focused as ever on winning.”
Maltais, of Petite-Rivière Saint-Francois, Que., has won the last three World Cups, with Ricker, the 2010 Olympic gold medallist, collecting two second places and a third.
But at the worlds in Spain, the slushy conditions, artificial snow, an unfavorable start gate and flat landings that were hard on her knees left Maltais behind at the start and playing catch up.
“I was looking to win that event,” Maltais said by phone from Spain. “I did my best and I put everything that I had. I’m happy to finish on the podium. Maëlle went too close to the net and she crashed there, and that was the race, pretty much.”
Snowboard cross is a direct competition between four riders as they descend a winding path made up of large curves and steep ramps, along a stretch of 650 metres. Just to make it in to the final four-person group out of 40 competitors is a huge feat — and for Canada to place two women in that final four consistently is amazing.
Lindsey Jacobellis of the U.S. took first and France’s Nelly Moenne Loccoz was second.
Ricker, of Squamish, B.C., fractured two metacarpal bones in her left hand when she fell. She also bruised her left shoulder and left elbow.
Ricker will be returning to Vancouver to undergo surgery.
“The injury should heal up well, with no long-term effects,” Dr. Connie LeBrun, chief medical officer of the Canadian snowboard team, said in a release.
“I was a little bit behind and I just went through and I caught them in the middle of the course,” Maltais said. “And suddenly I saw someone crash in the net and I just kept going and I realized at the end that was unfortunately Maëlle.”
Ricker and Maltais have taken turns holding the top spot of the World Cup standings since September 2009.
Maltais, a firefighter for the city of Montreal currently on leave of absence, has had a magical season so far, doubling her total career wins from three to six. After suffering an injury at the 2010 Olympics, she returned with a fresh focus and now holds a significant lead in the race towards the Crystal Globe, awarded to the season’s best rider.
“I changed snowboards this summer, but the key to this success, really, was my training this summer, which gave me lots of confidence,” said Maltais. “I feel good and in control on this new board. I am not scared to push the lines and I am confident it will react well.”
After her worlds medal Tuesday, Maltais didn’t have much to say about her 2010 Olympic disappointment, preferring to look ahead. She won an Olympic bronze medal in 2006 in Turin, Italy.
“The Olympics is like the top event in my career, and the world championship is a good title to have in your pocket, but I’m really happier about my three wins for the season than anything else,” Maltais said. “What happened at the Olympics sometimes happens, and what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I’m just happy I went through that event and I’m so strong and confident in my head.”