Batchelor second as snowboard qualification closes 

Ricker wins, Maltais third in snowboardcross

A World Cup snowboarding competition at Stoneham, Quebec this past weekend represented the last opportunity for athletes to meet Canada Snowboard requirements for automatic selection to the Olympic team. The team has already earned the maximum of 18 spots in the Games, but only seven of those spots were sewn up by the athletes themselves going into Stoneham.

The first event was a snowboardcross. On the women's side Whistler's Maëlle Ricker took her third win of the season, with teammate Dominique Maltais placing third. It was the fourth time this season that the athletes have shared a podium.

Helene Olafsen of Norway placed second and Sandra Frei of Switzerland fourth.

While Ricker was happy to take the win, she was concerned about the crashes in the final. Teammate Dominique Maltais went off course and was hit by Frei, allowing Olafsen to advance.

"It's nice to win but not when people are falling and could probably get hurt," said Ricker. "All other heats were really fun to ride. Usually you can hear some noise from riders behind you but today it was just silence."

Maltais considered herself lucky to finish.

"We were one behind each other, Maëlle and I," said Maltais. "I got scared we would touch and ruin everything, and it's me who went off course. The third (Frei) came into collision with me and broke my board."

Nine men made it through the qualification round, but it was Vancouver's Drew Neilson - fighting for an Olympic spot after missing most of last season with an injury - who led the team with a fourth place finish. Mike Robertson was fifth, Kevin Hill sixth, Francois Boivin eighth, Derek Wintermans 12 th , Robert Fagan 17 th , Tom Velisek 18 th and Simon Bonenfant 24 th .

In the halfpipe competition the stakes were high. To date only Justin Lamoureux of Squamish had qualified to represent Canada with two top-five results in recognized events.

Ontario's Jeff Batchelor placed second at Stoneham, achieving his second top-five placing to guarantee himself a spot with the Olympic team.

Dustin Craven was his closest competitor for the second spot with the team, but after Craven failed to qualify for the final Batchelor knew he had the advantage going into the team selection. That took the pressure off.

"I'm stoked," he said. "I knew I was going to Vancouver right after the qualifier. Victory would have been nice, but what can you do? It feels great to be sandwiched between two Finns."

Batchelor fell on his first run, but it didn't phase him too much heading into the second round.

"I am kind of notorious for doing that," said Batchelor, meaning falling in the first round and then making a comeback. "I leave it to the last second. That's kind of who I am in life."

Janne Korpi of Finland took the gold medal, with Antti Autti earning bronze.

Lamoureux also had a solid day, finishing in fourth place. Brad Martin was 10 th , Hugo Lemay 12 th , Whistler's Ryan Rausch 13 th , Gabriel Dussault 14 th , and Brendan Davis, Derek Livingston and Dustin Craven 17 th through 19 th .

On the women's side there were only 14 competitors so the results were not counted towards Olympic qualifying. Sarah Conrad of Squamish finished fourth and Whistler's Mercedes Nicoll was fifth. Also in the top 10 were Dominique Vallée in sixth place, Palmer Taylor seventh, Alexandra Duckworth eighth and Katie Tsuyuki ninth. The podium was swept by Chinese riders Xuetong Cai, Zhifeng Sun and Xu Chen.

The final event of the weekend was the parallel giant slalom.

Jasey-Jay Anderson got blocked out of the final but took his frustration out on a Swiss rider in the small final to take the bronze medal - his sixth podium appearance of the season.

The conditions were really difficult for me," said Anderson. "The conditions were icy, and usually I like to do some nice turns with forgiving snow. This was technical riding with controlled skids. It was really intense, and I felt like (I was) in a battlefield."

Michael Lambert placed seventh on the men's side, another solid result on top of the two podiums he's already earned this season.

Caroline Calve of Quebec was the top Canadian on the women's side, placing seventh - her best result of the season.

After this weekend the Canadian team has 19 World Cup medals, including seven gold.



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