Slow start for alpine snowboarders 

World Cup season kicks off indoors in Netherlands

 

Canada Snowboard sent a skeleton crew of athletes to the opening World Cup parallel slalom at Landgraaf, Netherlands last weekend, where athletes compete in an indoor facility with artificial refrigeration and its own snow-making system.

But while the facility is fake the points are real, and all of the top alpine racers in the world were there.

It's a new era for Canada with the retirement of veterans Jasey-Jay and Alexa Loo, although there is a lot of young talent on both the men's and women's squads.

On the women's side, Caroline Calve placed 19th overall after ranking eighth in the qualifier.

Ekaterina Tudegesheva of Russia took the gold medal, followed by Heidi Neururer of Austria and Alena Zavarzina of Russia.

Michael Lambert represented Canada on the men's team, placing 22nd overall.

Andreas Prommegger of Austria placed first overall, followed by Roland Fischnaller and Aaron March of Italy.

While sports teams usually see a drop in funding after an Olympic Games - and especially a home Olympics - as well as the loss of athletes through retirement, Canada Snowboard is taking a different approach preparing for the future.

With their success in the 2010 Games - gold medals by Maëlle Ricker in snowboardcross and Jasey-Jay Anderson in the parallel giant slalom, a silver medal by Mike Robertson in snowboardcross and two athletes qualifying for the finals in halfpipe (Mercedes Nicoll and Justin Lamoureux) - the team is guaranteed funding through Own The Podium, sponsors and other sports funding programs. As a result, the team was able to announce a roster of 31 athletes for the 2010-2011 season, which includes the FIS World Snowboard Championships in Spain in January.

That roster will likely be increased with the announcement that the sport of slopestyle would be included in the championships this year for the first time, clearing a path that could end up in the Olympics.

In snowboardcross, the team includes Maëlle Ricker and Dominique Maltais on the women's side, with 10 men taking part in the program: Francois Boivin, Dan Csokonay, Robert Fagan, Kevin Hill, Jake Holden, Drew Neilson, Chris Robanske, Mike Robertson and Tom Velisek.

In alpine, the women's team includes veterans Caroline Calve and Ekaterina Zavialova, who will be joined by Megan Farrell, Ariane Lavigne and Marianne Leeson. Matthew Morison and Michaell Lambert will anchor the men's team. They will be joined by Steve Barlow, Matthew Carter and Darren Gardner.

The freestyle team includes Sarah Conrad, Alex Duckworth, Mercedes Nicoll and Palmer Taylor on the women's side, with the men's team comprised of Jeff Batchelor, Justin Lamoureux, Derek Livingston and Brad Martin. That team will likely see a few additions with slopestyle and big air athletes.

The team doesn't expect to see as much success as in the past two seasons where national team riders set new records for medal wins. In 2009 the team earned 26 podiums (including three world championship medals), and in 2010 finished with 28 medals - the most of any nation on the circuit.

However, with a mix of veterans and newcomers, the team's new high performance director, Robert Joncas, still expects to be competitive.

"With the cancellation of a World Cup race this fall and the departure of Jasey-Jay Anderson, expectations for number of podiums on the FIS World Cup tour will be less this year in comparison with last year," he said. "But our goal remains for our teams to be very competitive and relentlessly ride for the podium at every occasion."

 

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