New faces on the podium in Bad Gastein, Austria
A pair of Canadians found their way to the podium at a pair of night events at Bad Gastein, Austria this week, including some new faces for the team.
In the womens snowboard cross, Dominique Maltais finished half a snowboard length behind Lindsey Jacobellis of the U.S. in the final heat to take silver, her first in international competition. Maria Danielsson of Sweden and Tania Uhlmann of Switzerland were third and fourth.
Maltais was the national snowboard cross champion last season, but this was only her second World Cup appearance, and her first time competing in Europe. The 23-year-old from Charlevoix, Quebec was excited about her finish.
"This is a great achievement for me to reach the podium in just my second World Cup," she said. "Training was tough all weekend, but I was able to put it all together today. It was a great day for Canada and we are going to enjoy it."
Vancouvers Erin Simmons was the only other Canadian in the 47 rider field, and narrowly missed the top-16 brackets after qualifying in 19 th place.
Other members of the national team opted to miss the events in Austria to concentrate on higher profile professional events in North America.
In the mens snowboard cross, Nelsons own Tom Velisek took the gold medal against an all-star international field, including Xavier Delerue and Sylvian Duclos of France in second and third. Canadas Jasey Jay Anderson was fourth to round out the finals. More than 77 riders showed up to the qualifier.
"This is just an excellent day for me and the result of a lot of hard work," said Velisek, 22, who recently received the Neil Daffern award for most promising snowboard athlete in Canada.
"This is a tremendous boost for my confidence. I raced against two of the top riders in the world (Delerue and Anderson) in the final heat and held them off, so it tells me I can compete with the best. I am so excited today."
Velisek was the national champion in 2001, the North American Continental Cup champion in 2002, and placed third at his first World Cup this season. Now that snowboard cross is in the Olympics, Velisek has ratcheted his training up a notch, and has set his sights on the World Cup snowboard cross title.
In the small final, Drew Neilson of Vancouver and Whistler finished in sixth. Francois Boivin was 19 th and Robert Fagan 23 rd , giving Canada four athletes in the finals.
In the parallel slalom event on the following day, Jasey Jay Anderson led the way for Canada with a sixth place finish. He could have finished much higher after winning the first run of the quarter-finals against Mathieu Bozzetto of France, but made an error in the second run that cost him a shot at the podium. For his part Bozzetto went on to finish second overall.
Dejan Kosir of Slovenia took the gold medal and Gilles Jaquet of Switzerland took the bronze ahead of World Cup leader Siegfried Grabner of Austria.