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Canadian boarders on top at world cup

Canadians learn from past mistakes to get gold and silver in Austria

For Canadian snowboarders Drew Neilson and Dominique Maltais a New Year meant a new start.

Both riders had a frustrating end to 2005, as mistakes and accidental bumping cost them podium placings at the Whistler World Cup snowboardcross events.

In the first of two races at Whistler, Neilson missed a gate in the finals after winning every round, holding a solid lead to the bottom. In the next race a daring pass attempt by American rider Seth Wescott pushed him off his line in the semi-finals, and he was relegated to the consolation final round.

For Maltais, the Whistler World Cup was also frustrating. Despite being one of the fastest qualifiers on both days, she bumped a teammate in one quarter-final round, and another rider in the quarter final the following day to finish well off the podium.

That was the Canadian team’s last snowboardcross of 2005, but the World Cup circuit resumed on Wednesday with an event at Bad Gastein, Austria.

Maltais was strong from the first round, shaking off the flu to win hole shot after hole shot and finish on top of the podium for the first time this season. "When I arrived on the last third of the run I asked myself whether I would win another World Cup race," she said. "In the last section there were big jumps so I just had to keep my balance. When I arrived at the finish I couldn’t believe it."

In the last round Maltais edged out Oliva Nobs of Switzerland, Austria’s Manuela Riegler and Whistler’s Maëlle Ricker, who is also coming off a disappointing December.

Maltais credits Canadian snowboardcross coach Rene Brunner for pushing her to race, when she initially felt too sick to be there.

"If he would have said ‘you’re too sick’ I probably wouldn’t have raced," she said.

Erin Simmons, who won a pair of silver medals in Whistler, finished 10 th on the day, while Dominique Vallée was 20 th .

Meanwhile North Vancouver’s Drew Neilson was on a mission in the men’s event.

"I made some mistakes at Whistler which I didn’t want to repeat here," he said. "I came here to win. I come to every race to win and I expected to do well today."

He had some back pains that morning, as well as some waxing issues, but a visit to the team physiotherapist and the wax technician sorted him out. He won every round through to the finals, where he faced a field that included a resurgent Shaun Palmer of the U.S., current overall World Cup standings leader Xavier Delerue of France, and Mario Fuchs of Austria.

Still, Neilson stuck to his game plan and asserted himself right out of the gate to claim his first World Cup win since September of 2004, and his 12 th World Cup medal.

"It was a fast and high quality field for the final," said Neilson. "I’m a happy boy."

Neilson was the only Canadian rider that managed to do any damage on the day. Jasey-Jay Anderson and Tom Velisek were 17 th and 18 th respectively, while Francois Boivin ended his day in 22 nd .

The team competed in a second World Cup snowboardcross on Thursday, Jan. 5.