With three medals — including two gold — in the 2010 Olympic Winter Games and big results on the global stage the last three seasons, there's no question that some of Canada's medal hopes in 2014 hinge on the national snowboard team. And for good reason.
In their final synopsis of the 2012-2013 season, the team collectively earned 55 podiums. Some were at the World Cup level, others at the FIS World Championships and still others at Snowboard World Tour pro events like X Games, Euro X Games and the U.S. Open.
The list of 55 podiums includes:
Dominique Maltais earned the team's only FIS Crystal Globe this year, and the fourth of her career, in snowboardcross, while teammate Maëlle Ricker, the Olympic champion, won the world championship title. As well, Chris Robanske won his first snowboardcross gold medal on the men's side, and the first gold on the men's side since the 2006-2007 season.
In alpine, Caroline Calvé won gold, silver and bronze medals, including the first win of her career. Ariagne Lavigne won bronze at a World Cup and Olympic test event in Sochi, Russia, while Matthew Morison overcame his slump to win a bronze medal in Switzerland.
In slopestyle, Mark McMorris won gold in big air and slopestyle at X Games, won the X Games slopestyle, was second in the X Games Big Air, and won the Burton US Open slopestyle. He was named the Slopestyle World Snowboard Tour Champion. Teammate Sebastien Toutant won the World Snowboard Tour Big Air Champion title and gold in the Euro X Games slopestyle. Maxence Parrot won gold in the O'Neill Evolution Big Air. In women's slopestyle, Spencer O'Brien won the World Championships and the Burton US Open.
In halfpipe, Whistler's Mercedes Nicoll finished with two top 10 World Cup results.
Robert Joncas, the higher performance director for Canada Snowboard, said it was the team's best year ever.
"Some will point out that that's easy to say because we've added one discipline over what we already had, and we're very successful in that discipline — we had a lot of podium in slopestyle, and that's almost half of it," he said.
Joncas pointed to the success of the team in snowboardcross and alpine events.
"In alpine, Caroline Calve's was the first female to win a World Cup medal for Canada, which is a big one for us, and the alpine team won five podiums this year which is good compared to last year when the team won just two," he said. "There was a lot of good news."
While halfpipe has been nudged aside recently with cuts to funding and support, Joncas said that's on its way back as well.
"The pipe program is in reconstruction mode, but the big key for us is we hired a guy by the name of Dan Raymond as coach, and he did a great job bringing everyone together and working in a good direction with a very limited budget. He did great work. Last year we hired him on a seasonal basis for six months, but the good news is that this year we're able to hire him full time to work on the program. We have a new sponsors so we can support the program even more," said Joncas.
"As you know, halfpipe gets nothing from Own the Podium to support the program since it's performance-based (funding) and halfpipe didn't have any podiums on their side, but we believe we're moving forward and by 2018 (Olympics) we'll have the program back to where it was a few years ago."
This week Canada Snowboard is presenting its funding request for next season to Own the Podium. In 2011-2012, the team received just over $2.4 million in additional funding, on top of Sport Canada funds and sponsorship money. In terms of Own the Podium support, annual funding for snowboard is among the highest for all nationals sports programs.
Under International Olympic Committee rules, the maximum size for any national snowboard team is 24 athletes, and Joncas expects that between 23 and 25 athletes will meet all the qualification criteria by the time the selection period ends on Jan. 19, 2014 and the team is announced on Jan. 24.
Mazda Canada signed on as the official sponsor at the start of the season, and recently extended that contract for the next two years. As well, Canada Snowboard has joined a group called the Canadian Snow Sports Consortium, which is seeking joint sponsorship for all of Canada on-snow teams and athletes.
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