The Canadian Snowboard Team kicked off 2009 on the right foot, winning two medals at alpine and snowboardcross events in Europe this past week.
Whistler’s Maëlle Ricker came closest on Saturday, placing fourth in a night snowboardcross in Bad Bas Gastein, Austria.
Ricker was solid all the way to the finals, and was in second place to U.S. rider Lindsey Jacobellis out of the gate in the final round when they bumped boards and went down. That allowed Sandra Frei of Switzerland and Deborah Anthonioz of France to pull ahead, while Jacobellis was a little quicker to her feet to pick up the bronze medal.
“It’s too bad because it was a very good final,” said Ricker.
“I had good playoff rounds. I led from the start in both the quarterfinal and semifinal.”
Despite the fall, Ricker says the result gave her confidence going into the world championships in South Korea later this month.
“I’m improving each race,” she said. “It augurs well for the worlds and the World Cup at Cypress Mountain in February.”
Her teammate Dominique Maltais was relegated to the small final after a bad start in the semi-final, but redeemed herself with a win in that group to place fifth overall.
On the men’s side, Xavier Delerue of France took the gold, followed by Michal Novotny of Czech Republic and Nate Holland of the U.S. Mike Robertson was the top Canadian, in seventh place.
On Sunday the athletes raced again. This time Dominique Maltais moved up to second place behind Jacobellis and ahead of Zoe Gillings of Germany. Ricker got in trouble in her semi-final, but recovered in the next round to win the small final and place fifth.
On the men’s side, Damien Hayler of Australia won gold, followed by Markus Schairer of Austria. Canada’s Mike Robertson moved up to third, but thought he could have done better.
“I was second before the last jump and tried to move into first and fell,” he said. “That’s why I’m not fully satisfied, even though it is a career-best result. I think I’ll need a week before I can enjoy this medal.”
In Kreischberg, Austria a few days earlier, Canadians had mixed results in alpine races. With the team members largely paying their own way, the women opted not to compete, while Jasey-Jay Anderson and Matthew Morison continued to chase World Cup points.
In the parallel giant slalom, Anderson placed fifth and Morison 11 th . Neither rider finished in the top-15 in the parallel slalom the next day.
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