Ricker talks gold at Canada Olympic Park

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:14 AM ET

Maelle Ricker understands all the attention shes garnered since winning Olympic gold.

Heck, when the snowboard cross racer isnt on the snow, like this weekend at Canada Olympic Park, she becomes a huge fan.

Shes out with a shoulder-hand injury (although snowboard cross isnt contested at COP anyway) but the 32-year-old from Squamish, B.C., will be rooting on teammates anyway.

I love watching. I get so excited. I get so behind the riders, said Ricker. Its nerve-wracking watching because I know what its like to be in their shoes.

In that regard, Im so happy that Im here. I used to travel with all the girls on the halfpipe team.

Much like her time in Calgary this weekend, Ricker has been on a whirlwind tour since becoming the first Canadian woman to win Olympic gold on home soil.

Its been just over a year since she triumphed in Vancouver, which was her third Games and second in snowboard cross. She began her long Olympic career in Nagano, where she was fifth in the halfpipe.

A painful fourth-place snowboard-cross finish at Turin in 2006 didnt dampen her spirit, and now she can carry the gold medal around with her when she wants.

Shes popular enough now she even drew a huge ovation from the Saddledome crowd Friday night when announced during a TV timeout.

At COP Saturday, where she will attend the halfpipe and slopestyle finals, there will be an autograph booth with the medal on display.

Its neat that people got that excited about the Games, Ricker said. Its fun to share the medal with everybody.

For Ricker, the medal represents much more than just one great day on the course. She lived through heartbreak before getting to the top.

It shows a bunch of hard work from a lot of people paid off when it all came together on that day last year, Ricker said. It has huge significance to me. It was something I wanted to do since I was a kid. Its nice to have fulfilled that dream.

If Ricker can stay healthy and keeps enjoying what shes doing, there might be a gold-medal defence attempt at Sochi, Russia, in 2014.

The atmosphere wont be the same as winning on home soil, but Ricker isnt just in this for the glory.

I choose to do this because I love the lifestyle and everything thats around it, she said. If I wasnt racing, I would still be involved in the sport somehow.

I still want to compete and I still want to snowboard. For those reasons, I will want to be in Russia. The reason why Im racing isnt just because of going to Olympics. Its because I love snowboarding so much.

Time is running out on this season, but Ricker hopes to compete at season-ending races in Europe. She needs her wonky shoulder to comply, though.

Its like a rubber ducky right now. Pulling out of the gate is a little tough, said Ricker, whos anxious to get on the board again after nearly seven weeks off.

Even being at home, Im itching to get back on the board because theres been so much powder at whistler. For all reasons, I want to get back on the board.

ian.busby@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/ianbusby57


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