Alpine boarders kick some butt 

December is a great month to get some World Cup points before the holidays. The alpine and snowboardcross teams are both in Switzerland getting ready to race in Arosa this weekend. The pipe team is still in Colorado. They just finished competing at the first stop of the U.S. Grand Prix tour in Breckenridge.

My alpine teammates kicked some serious butt last weekend in Italy. The weather was crazy for giant slalom racing but the Canadians prevailed. It dumped snow, but also had thunder and lightning all at the same time. It’s crazy to think that with a metre of snow in a 24-hour period before the event the organizers could still put on a show. A metre of snow, how nice would that be in Whistler right now!

Matt Morison won the race while Jasey-Jay Anderson won the small final to end up in the third place position. The girls upped the ante by leaps and bounds. Kimiko Zakreski got her first podium. Not only that, she’s only the second female in Canadian history to ever win a World Cup medal in alpine. Kimi was second last Sunday to Austrian racer Doris Guenther, who also won the opening World Cup in Holland.

I talked to Kimi today and she told me the whole day was like a dream… the race, the weather, and the whole experience. Alexa Loo, who is that only other Canadian female to step onto the World Cup podium, also had a great result. She was eighth at the end of the day. I’m pretty sure that’s the first time we’ve had three Alpine riders on the podium in one World Cup. A job very, very well done!

The halfpipe riders have been competing as well at an extremely hard level. You could even consider a U.S. Grand Prix to be as hard or even harder than the Olympic field, just because of the number of strong Americans that are able to compete in the contests. The event at Breckenridge last weekend was no exception.

Two men and two women from that contest earned starts at the world championships in Korea next month. The other spots for worlds will be determined in January.

Whistler’s Mercedes Nicoll and Charmaine Ironside got the ladies berths, while a surprising finish in the men’s contest decided the guys’ spots. Calgary’s Dustin Craven, who is not a member of the national team, placed fifth in the Grand Prix. He will be joining Brad Martin and two others in Korea.

I have had a big break from competing. The last time I stepped into a start gate was in September in Argentina. My team has been training like crazy, though. After we left a two-week training camp in Powder King in Northern B.C. last week we had a couple of days at home before going to Europe.

The snowboardcross team has been training in Lech for the last few days. The snow conditions were good but it’s still rocky in places. I had to be very careful not to damage my race boards as the team tech, J.P. Trottier, just finished dialing all the race boards in his shop in Squamish where he’s been working through the fall months. I must admit I was pretty nervous about it because I just finished wrecking one of my boards on the start gate at Powder King the week before.

Alas, we are now in Arosa, the home of our 2007 World Championships. I placed fifth at that event and I’m determined to better my score this weekend. My male teammates are also out for blood, as they have to fight it out for World Championship starts.

Let’s hope for another great event with lots of medals to bring home to Canada for the holidays!

Maëlle Ricker is a member of the Canadian Snowboard Team specializing in snowboardcross, and the 2008 World Cup globe winner for snowboardcross.

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