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Canadian boarders take four World Cup medals

The Canadian Snowboard Team wrapped up the Japanese leg of the World Cup tour with four medals at Niigata Joetsu-Kokusai last weekend.
The Canadian Snowboard Team wrapped up the Japanese leg of the World Cup tour with four medals at Niigata Joetsu-Kokusai last weekend.

Whistler rider Drew Neilson kicked it off with a gold medal performance in the snowboard cross on one of the most technical and difficult courses on the circuit.

For Neilson, who started the season with a gold medal, the win put an end to a prolonged World Cup medal drought. Although he continues to be one of the fastest riders in qualifying, he has had a tough time keeping that edge in the brackets. Not so in Japan, where Neilson was the frontrunner in every heat.

"I had only one thing on my mind, and that was winning," said the 29-year-old. "I knew that I would win today when I got up this morning. Winning the qualifier was great because it really pushed me to ride as fast as I could in the final."

Five Canadians qualified for the elimination round of 32 riders, and were picked off one by one. Francois Boivin of Jonquiere, Quebec was 23 rd . Jasey-Jay Anderson of Mont Tremblant, Quebec was 17 th . Robert Fagan of Cranbrook was 16 th and Tom Velisek of Nelson was 13 th .

Behind Neilson were Seth Wescott and Nate Holland of the U.S. – a rare North American sweep for snowboard cross.

In the women’s snowboard cross, Whistler’s Maelle Ricker was strong all day to qualify for the finals. She was on pace to win the gold medal when she was squeezed off course around the last turn. She put on the brakes, and finished fourth – her best result this year, but three spots back of the gold she was on pace to win.

Vancouver’s Erin Simmons was seventh and Dominique Vallee of Beaconsfield, Quebec finished eighth in the small final.

The gold went to Lindsey Jacobellis of the U.S., followed by Julie Pomagalski and Marle Laissus of France.

In the second snowboard cross on the following day, there were three Canadians in the four-rider final. Robert Fagan took the silver medal and Drew Neilson the bronze. Tom Velisek finished just off the podium in fourth. The win went to Xavier Delerue of France.

Anderson was ninth and Boivin 21 st .

In the women’s event, Erin Simmons took the bronze and Dominique Maltais of Charlevoix, Quebec finished fourth. Lindsey Jacobellis took her second gold medal in as many days, followed by Julie Pomagalski.

The Canadians’ luck ran out on the final day of competition, with none of the men or women qualifying for the halfpipe finals. Crispin Lipscomb and Mercedes Nicoll, both of Whistler, were the top Canadians in 19 th and 24 th respectively.

The big story was Jacobellis, who won her third gold medal in as many days. She was followed by Jane Torah Bright of Australia and Kelly Clark of the U.S.

In the men’s competition, the gold went to Steven Fisher of the U.S., followed by Antti Autti and Vizenz Lueps of Finland.