Ricker 'feeling much better' after surgery 

X Games wrap: Roz G returns to post silver-medal finish in women's superpipe

click to enlarge PHOTO BY GABRIEL CHRISTUS / COURTESY OF ESPN IMAGES - Pre-Olympic Operation Maëlle Ricker takes an early lead in her women's snowboarder X semifinal ahead of Lindsey Jacobellis and Whistler's Carle Brenneman on Jan. 24. Ricker injured her wrist at Aspen after the X Games and underwent surgery on Jan. 28, but said she's already on the mend and still hopeful she can defend her Olympic gold medal in Sochi.
  • Photo by Gabriel Christus / Courtesy of ESPN images
  • Pre-Olympic Operation Maëlle Ricker takes an early lead in her women's snowboarder X semifinal ahead of Lindsey Jacobellis and Whistler's Carle Brenneman on Jan. 24. Ricker injured her wrist at Aspen after the X Games and underwent surgery on Jan. 28, but said she's already on the mend and still hopeful she can defend her Olympic gold medal in Sochi.

An upbeat Maëlle Ricker said she's "feeling much better" after undergoing surgery on a broken wrist suffered on the Winter X Games course several days after her races in Aspen, Colo., concluded.

The reigning Olympic women's snowboard cross champion was hurt while training on Tuesday, Jan. 28 and had an operation in Vail to begin the healing process just a few weeks before she'll try to defend her gold medal in Sochi.

"I just ended up going a bit too long in the roller section on one of the doubles, and going off the next section, sort of got kicked up in the air... and landed the wrong way," Ricker told Pique on Wednesday, Jan. 29 from Vail. "I got in right away and had really good care and I'm in recovery right now, feeling much better than I was yesterday."

The 2013 world champion said she felt fortunate to have the full team staff on hand, as she was immediately assessed by the squad's physiotherapist and trainer on site. Ricker said she didn't have a timeline for recovery, but noted that the surgery went very well and it's still her plan to race in Sochi.

One positive for Ricker is that her Olympic race isn't too early in the Games. Since women's snowboard cross competition is scheduled for Feb. 16, she'll have a few extra days to recover.

"I've got a little bit of padding there, anyway," she said of the Sochi schedule.

The injury came after Ricker placed seventh in women's Snowboarder X competition during the X Games on Friday, Jan. 24. She was leading her semifinal on Friday but caught an edge and slid out, and was relegated to the consolation final. She won that heat handily to place seventh overall, while Whistler's Carle Brenneman made it through to the final and finished fifth.

Ricker will return home to the Sea to Sky shortly, but said she's unsure if she'll try to ride over the next week as her recovery continues.

"We'll just have to wait and see," she said. "Hopefully... I'll get healed up nice and quickly."

ROZ G BACK ON PODIUM; MIKE RIDDLE FOURTH

If there were any questions about whether recent surgery might hinder Roz Groenewoud's chances for an Olympic medal, she answered them by stepping onto the Winter X Games podium for a fifth consecutive year.

Competing for the first time since she underwent bilateral knee surgery in December, Groenewoud captured a silver medal in the women's superpipe final at Aspen, Colo., on Friday.

The 24-year-old posted a first-run score of 85.66 with an impressive run that showed few signs of rust and put her behind U.S. skier Maddie Bowman (88.66) and ahead of French bronze medallist Marie Martinod (82.33).

"I'm ecstatic," Groenewoud said in a release. "It's been such an emotional process having surgery this close to the Games.

"This is such a perfect way to remember how to compete, how to deal with the butterflies and prepare for Sochi."

Over the past five years, Groenewoud has now collected one gold, two silver and two bronze medals from the annual action sport gathering in Aspen.

Mike Riddle came up just short of the podium in Friday's men's final, placing fourth, a personal best for him at the event. The Canadian halfpipe team member originally did not qualify for the eight-man final but got in after two skiers pulled out with injuries. Riddle earned a top score of 84.33 from judges, while American David Wise (92.00), France's Kevin Rolland (88.66) and Aspen native Alex Ferreira (85.33) took the top three spots.

"It's a new run for me with a switch double nine at the end," said Riddle. "I didn't quite get it perfect tonight but the pieces of the puzzle are coming together."

To finish in fourth place was aggravating for the 27-year-old, but Riddle said he was glad to be given a chance to ski in the final after originally missing out, and that he'd rather be just off the podium now than during Olympic competition in three weeks time.

"Finishing fourth, you're definitely hungry for the next one and don't want to be in that same spot," he said. "I think it's good timing for it. I'd rather finish fourth at X than in Sochi."

Whistler's Justin Dorey wasn't able to hold a run together in the final and placed eighth. He took a couple of hard hits on the lip of the pipe and told Pique he felt fortunate to come away uninjured with the Olympics just days away.

"I'm a little frustrated but actually pretty stoked I didn't get hurt," he said. "I had three extremely hard crashes and although it sucked, to be honest, this year I was not expecting to do well at X just because it's not my jam. I've never podiumed there and I've been there eight times, so it is what it is."

Fellow local Simon d'Artois made his first X Games start, and although he was unable to get out of the qualifier, he told Pique he was pleased with the experience overall.

"The vibe at the X Games was crazy and it was a really good experience just being there and seeing the production they put on," said d'Artois, who's travelling to Europe with the Olympic team this week for its pre-Sochi camp. "It was a pretty good time."

TSUBOTA FRUSTRATED WITH FINISH

Whistler's Yuki Tsubota finished eighth in the women's slopestyle ski final held Sunday, Jan. 26, having difficulty putting all of the elements of her run together at once.

"It didn't really go the way I wanted it to," she said. "I was having a lot of trouble with my switch five on the first jump. My first run I got the switch five really good but messed up on everything else, and then my last two runs I messed up on the switch five and got everything else. It was pretty frustrating."

Canada's Kaya Turski, just five months removed from ACL surgery, showed she's ready for Sochi by claiming another X Games gold Sunday. U.S. skier Maggie Voisin took silver and Canadian Kim Lamarre earned bronze, edging Ontario's Dara Howell.

In other highlights from the weekend in Aspen, Canadians Maxence Parrot and Mark McMorris finished one-two in the men's snowboard slopestyle final, B.C.'s Spencer O'Brien secured a bronze in the women's event, Nick Goepper won the men's slopestyle ski gold and fellow American Danny Davis rode to victory in the men's snowboard superpipe final.

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