Canadian Maelle Ricker wins gold at Olympic snowboard cross

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WEST VANCOUVER, B.C. - Canadian Maelle Ricker put on a show for the home crowd Tuesday, cruising to Olympic gold in the women's snowboard cross at the Vancouver Games.
Ricker, the world's top-ranked rider, was third in qualifying - despite falling in her first run - and easily won her quarter-final. She also finished first in the semifinal before leading from start to finish in the final.
It was sweet victory for the 31-year-old from West Vancouver, who suffered a concussion after falling in the final four years ago in Turin.
"It was such a motivator for me, it made me work that much harder," she said of the Turin experience.
Deborah Anthonioz of France took the silver ahead of Olivia Nobs of Switzerland.
Ricker waved to the crowd and clapped after stepping onto the podium, celebrating Canada's second gold of the Games. The gold comes one day after Mike Robertson won silver in the men's snowboard cross.
Canadian Dominique Maltais, a bronze medallist in 2006, failed to survive the qualifying round.
American Lindsey Jacobellis, who paid the price for hot-dogging in Turin by having to settle for silver instead of gold, won the consolation final but refused to speak to the media afterwards.
Four years ago, Jacobellis was metres away from winning gold when she decided to celebrate, grabbing her board while going over a jump. She caught an edge and crashed, allowing a Swiss rider to take the gold.
Jacobellis got back up to claim the silver, but has never been able to escape the hot-dog label.
This time it was incidental contact with Ricker that was her downfall in the semifinal. The two launched in the air and made contact as they landed, with the American forced off at an angle. She couldn't recover.
"I didn't feel our boards come in contact," said Ricker. "I just tried to stay on my line and continue what I was doing."
Ricker is competing in her third Olympics. The former halfpipe rider came fourth in snowboard cross and 23rd in the halfpipe in Turin. She was fifth in halfpipe at the 1998 Games in Nagano.
It was a bad day on the board for Maltais.
The 29-year-old firefighter from Petite-Riviere-St-Francois, Que., failed to advance out of the qualification round, finishing 20th out of 22 riders. She was disqualified in the first round for going off the course and missing a gate. She fell in the second run but still managed to finished the race after clawing her way up a hill so she could continue.
Ricker and Maltais had hoped to celebrate together after making the podium in four of the five World Cup events this season. Ricker has three World Cup golds and a bronze, while Maltais has a silver and three bronze medals.
"I'm really happy for Maelle," said Maltais. "She deserves it. It's her hometown right here, and I'm really proud for her to get the gold medal."
The two have been a force on the circuit the last four years. They bunk together on the road, travel to the hills together and constantly push each other in training.
"She's a really nice girl," said Maltais. "We're always helping each other. (She's a) good rider, too. We're always pushing each other, and (we have) a good relationship, too. She totally deserved it, for sure.
Ricker, Maltais and Jacobellis all raced in that wild snowboard-cross final at the Turin Games.
The race itself remains a blur for Ricker, who tumbled off the course shortly after the start, bonked her head on the ground and suffered a concussion. The official record book gives her a fourth.
Maltais also crashed in the final, the discipline's Olympic debut, but she hopped back on her board to capture the bronze.

Organizations: Vancouver Games

Geographic location: Turin, WEST VANCOUVER, France Switzerland Canada Nagano

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