The job interviews are over and the work begins 

Largest snowboard team ever headed to Torino

By Maëlle Ricker

The job application period is over and all resumes have been handed in. The position up for grabs? Member of the Olympic snowboard team. The job description: bring home medals.

There were 16 openings for this particular job, and all 16 spots have been filled. Five of the team members are B.C. born and bred, and eight are now B.C. residents. These numbers give pretty good odds of having a medal come home to our province.

This is also the biggest snowboard team Canada has ever sent to the Games. Looking back on the qualifying standards from Nagano and Salt Lake City, I’d say these games were much easier to qualify for.

The depth of the team is impressive, particularly among the snowboardcross-ers. All seven members of the snowboardcross team have been on a World Cup podium at least once. Some have stood up there many more times than that. The snowboardcross athletes who will wear the red and white uniforms this February are Dominique Maltais, Erin Simmons, Jasey-Jay Anderson, Francois Boivin, Drew Neilson, Tom Velisek and me.

Halfpipe will be a highlight at the Games. In Salt Lake City four years ago, the men’s halfpipe event was sold out and the people who did manage to get a ticket got to watch a great show. I have a feeling it will be even crazier this time around.

Our men’s team will be right in the mix when the pipe opens Feb. 12 th . Justin Lamoureux, Crispin Lipscomb, Brad Martin, and Hugo Lemay are the fantastic four Canadian men. Mercedes Nicoll, Dominique Vallee, Sarah Conrad, and I will hold down the pipe the following day on the women’s side of things.

All three of the Canadian Alpine Snowboard Team qualified for the Games. Jasey-Jay and Phil Berube are the men representing Canada in Torino. Phil just squeezed into a team spot right before Christmas and this will be the third time Jasey will be at the Olympics. So far he has not medaled at the Games, but third time’s a charm!

Alexa Loo, one of our B.C.-born athletes, is the only female competing for Canada in the PGS. She has been riding very well in the last month and brought home a gold from a Continental Cup race in Colorado. Alexa was also the highest placing Canadian, man or woman, at the last World Cup in Le Relais, Quebec.

While the racers were duking it out at Le Relais to see who could sneak in some last minute Olympic qualifications, the halfpipe team was in Whistler training in the World Cup pipe. The team was supposed to go to Colorado for a Grand Prix event, but because the pipe on Blackcomb was so good, most of the riders opted to stay in Canada for some valuable training time.

Justin and Brad went to Breckenridge to compete at the Grand Prix. Unfortunately Justin bonked his head and ended his day early.

Tom Velisek and I joined up with a couple of Swiss riders and our coach, Rene Brunner, for a drive down to Mount Hood for some snowboardcross training. We secretly hoped for a little powder riding as well.

We did get in some snowboardcross training but we definitely did not get any powder.

The adventure started with an attempt to freeride at Mount Baker. The mountain was a giant brick of ice. It had obviously rained and then froze up quite nicely. It also looked as though it hadn’t snowed in a while. Once again the notorious pineapple express came roaring through!

We kept driving south to Government Camp, a town on the south side of Mount Hood. The weather was gorgeous but there were no signs of new snow.

However, Mount Hood Meadows had a decent course to train on. Mellie Francon, one of the Swiss girls traveling with us, and I had a great time riding together.

We had an equally good time playing some practical jokes at night. Needless to say, it made Rene’s life a bit tough for a few days. I don’t think I’ll ever get to travel with her again.

The New Year is almost here. I have set out some resolutions.

I will no longer be playing practical jokes on people who enter me into contests and send me down a snowboardcross course.

I will never go out in the first round of racing ever again!

I will go bigger, have better style, and do harder tricks in the halfpipe!

See you in 2006.

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