WEST Vancouver native Maëlle Ricker won gold at the Snowboard FIS World Championships Saturday in Stoneham, Que., claiming the one title that had so far eluded her in her illustrious career as a snowboard cross racer.
Ricker's trophy case was already stocked with Crystal Globe season-championship awards, numerous World Cup medals and, of course, a shiny hunk of gold won on Cypress Mountain at the 2010 Olympics but before this weekend she had never earned gold at the world championships. She placed fourth three times, going all the way back to her first worlds in 1997, and won bronze at the 2005 race in Whistler but never world gold.
That changed Saturday when the 34-year-old put in a dominant performance in Quebec, finishing as the fastest qualifier before carrying that speed into the six-woman elimination races and coming out on top in the final. Dominique Maltais of Petite-Riviere-St. Francois, Que., finished second to join her teammate on the podium while Norway's Helene Olafsen won the bronze.
"It's extremely satisfying," Ricker said of finally winning a world championship. "It's definitely something that was missing, just not performing on the right day. It was a little bit of a thorn in my side and a big goal going into this season."
Ricker cruised through her quarter-and semi-final races
with ease and jumped out in front in the final as well but had to push for the line to edge out her hard-charging teammate.
"In the last third of the course, I definitely felt Dom on my shoulder," said Ricker. "It was the only part of the course she was faster than me. We saw that on video all week. But I stayed calm, kept my body moving forward and beat her to the line by a board length."
Experience paid off for both Ricker and the 32-yearold Maltais as they came out on top in a final that featured two teenagers and two other racers in their 20s.
"We're the dinosaurs of the group," said Ricker with a laugh. "But experience plays a lot in these technical races. It's definitely something I have to use to my advantage since I don't have youth on my side anymore. I have to be smart with my training, smart with some of my landings."
The win earned Ricker an early-bird ticket into the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. With a little more than one year to go before the Games begin, Ricker can now set her sights squarely on repeating as the Olympic champion.