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Snowboarders solid at home

Sebastien 'Toots' Toutant takes gold medal in slopestyle at X Games

Sebastien "Toots" Toutant may be one of the most exciting snowboarders in the world today, with two wins in World Cup big airs and the Swatch TTY series, and a slopestyle victory at X Games. With so many events and demands on his time, it wasn't confirmed until the last minute that Toots would be competing at home last weekend as Stoneham hosted a full-fledged World Cup event.

With friends and family looking on, Toots showed why he's such a big deal in the big air competition in Quebec City. He scrubbed his first trick, then proceeded to post the top two scores of the day in his next two runs to take the gold medal by a full 5.5 points over Canadian Matts Kulisek. Stefan Falkeis of Austria was third.

Toots won with his signature trick, the Tootsie Role - a backside 1080 double-cork where he throws an invert into his last spin.

"I was supposed to be in Norway for another contest (but) I injured myself in Austria while training and came back to Canada to receive treatments," he said. "My physios told me it would be a good test to take part in this contest.

"It's really nice to come here and win the discipline. Having a ramp in an urban setting is really different than a contest on a mountain. There is a lot less time to get ready, but what a show."

Toots is currently on top of the World Cup standings, and is one of Canada Snowboard's two hopefuls to win an overall title and crystal globe.

The other hopeful is Dominique Maltais, who is currently leading the women's snowboardcross standings with three World Cup wins and a third place finish at the FIS Snowboard World Championships.

She came out strong at Stoneham, but in the end it was America rider Lindsey Jacobellis who took the gold medal after battling head-to-head the entire way down.

"The course was a lot tougher today than in training, with a lot more hills," said Maltais. "I made a huge error at the top of the course, but it's okay since I stayed in second place. I was able to catch a lot of ground on Jacobellis in the second half of the race. It was a really nice race for all the girls."

With 3,800 points, Maltais is pretty much a lock for the overall title. Her closest competitor is Maëlle Ricker with 2,200 points, although Ricker has been somewhat sidelined since she injured her hand at the world championships. More on the "somewhat" later.

Ricker's absence opened the door to Justine Cote, a newcomer for the Canadian team. She placed 12th.

Deborah Athonoiz of France picked up the bronze medal.

On the men's side, the top Canadian was Kevin Hill in fourth, behind Nick Baumgartner and Jonathan Cheever of the U.S., and David Speiser of Germany.

Rob Fagan was ninth, Francois Boivin 17th and Tom Velisek 26th.

Athletes from Asia dominated in the halfpipe event, though Australia was represented too.

Xuetong Cai of China finished first, followed by Holly Crawford of Australia and Haruna Matsumoto of Japan. Sarah Conrad was the top Canadian in seventh, with Calynn Irwin in 10th and Whistler's Mercedes Nicoll in 11th.

Ryo Aono, Taku Haraoka and Kazuumi Fumita of Japan were first through third, with Kosuke Hosokawa of Japan making the sweep even more complete in fourth place.

Brad Martin was the top Canadian in fifth, one spot ahead of Justin Lamoureux. Both Canadians are based in Squamish.

The final event was the parallel giant slalom. It was a big race for Matthew Morison, a usually reliable racer who has not been on a World Cup podium since December of 2009. Morison was eliminated in the semi-finals, but went on to win the small final dual against Rolan Fischnaller of Italy to take the bronze medal.

Benjamin Karl of Austria edged teammate Andreas Prommegger for the gold.

It was a nail-biter for Morison. He initially was placed fourth, but the judges later announced that Fischnaller had disqualified after failing to go completely around a gate on the lower part of the course.

"I hate to move into the bronze medal spot that way - you want to earn it - but I'll take it," said Morison. "It's great for my confidence. I am back in school this year, and it's been tough."

On the women's side, Caroline Calve came with a fraction of a second of her own bronze medal. "I cannot be satisfied," she said. "At the same time, to make the finals was really good for me. Going through the top eight and then to the top four is quite amazing, especially on home soil."

Prior to Stoneham, Calve had failed to make it through the qualifications into the final round.

Ekaterina Tudegesheva of Russia won her fourth race this season, followed by Claudia Riegler and Marion Kreiner of Austria.

Canadians Ariane Lavigne and Cora Follows were 22nd and 29th.


Canadians solid at Mount Baker Legendary Banked Slalom

Although she's temporarily sidelined from the World Cup with a broken hand and injured shoulder, Maëlle Ricker turned up at the Mount Baker Legendary Banked Slalom a week ago to defend her title from the previous four years.

On a course shaped by the natural terrain, Ricker placed first once again to make it five years in a row. Maria DeBari and Marni Yamada were second and third for the Pro Women.

Olympic snowboardcross silver medallist Mike Robertson was third in the Pro Men's category, behind Harry Kearney and Josh Dirksen. Rob Fagan was fifth, Matthew Morison seventh and Tom Velisek ninth out of 38 racers.

Canadian coach Mark Fawcett won the Pro Masters category (age 32 and up).