Ricker wins season’s first snowboardcross 

Over the years South America has been good for Whistler's Maëlle Ricker, and this year - with the Olympics on the horizon and the top international field to contend with - was no exception.

Ricker followed up her third-best qualifying time with near-perfect performances through to the finals at Chapelco, Argentina where she faced off against Alexandra Jekova of Bulgaria, Sweden's Tanja Fieden and her Canadian teammate Dominique Maltais. Lindsey Jacobellis of the U.S., Ricker's toughest competition on most days, found herself out of the running after an error in the quarter-final.

Ricker took gold while Maltais joined her on the podium with bronze, one step below Jekova.

"I am very excited because I felt flat this summer in training but came to Argentina with a clear mind and I think it helped," said Ricker, 30. "I felt really good on top of my board. I came to Argentina with a clean slate and I was ready to go.

"The course played well to my strengths. There was a quick start section (that) allowed me to control the heats right through to the final. I had good starts and clean runs in front of the other girls all day... I didn't have to deal with traffic and it allowed me to ride in front."

The win in Argentina represents Ricker's 20 th snowboardcross World Cup podium, as well as her second gold medal in a row after her strong finish last season.

For Maltais, the bronze medalist in the 2006 Winter Games, it's been a long road back from injuries. She was pleased with her bronze medal.

"It was a good race for the first event of the season," she said. "I am happy because it was a technical start, which is not my strength, but I raced hard. A bronze medal is a great start to my season and I can't wait to keep charging through until the Games in 2010."

The men's team didn't manage any podiums, despite the fact that five men qualified for the finals in the top-32 after the qualifier. Mike Robertson of Alberta was the top Canadian racer, in sixth place. Simon Bonenfant was eighth, Robert Fagan ninth, Francois Boivin 13 th and Tom Velisek 23 rd .

The win went to Pierre Vaultier of France, followed by American riders Seth Wescott and Graham Watanabe. Markus Schairer of Austria rounded out the final bracket.

The Canadian team has had a busy summer with additional training camps at Mammoth and Australia on top of their usual camps in Calgary, New Zealand and around B.C.




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