Ricker rides to historic gold
Bob Mackin, QMI Agency
WEST VANCOUVER: The fog lifted at Cypress Mountain Tuesday and Maelle Ricker became the first Canadian woman and first British Columbian to win Olympic gold at home.
Ricker, a 31-year-old from Squamish, B.C., beat Deborah Anthonioz of France and Olivia Nobs of Switzerland in the women’s snowboardcross final. World champion Helen Olafsen of Norway crashed midway.
“I tried to explode out of the gate, I really wanted to get out of that gate as fast as I can,” said Ricker. “It was really, really hard today to get a clean run all the way down the course, but I just held on and did my best.”
The North Vancouver native who grew up near Cypress was the undisputed favourite after winning three of five world cup races this season and placing third in another.
Ricker’s win was the biggest snowboarding victory for Canada since Ross Rebagliati took the Olympic gold medal in giant slalom at Nagano 1998. Ricker also made her Olympic debut at Nagano, finishing fifth in halfpipe. Tuesday’s win was redemption for Turin 2006 where Ricker finished fourth in snowboardcross despite crashing before the finish line.
“Turin was such a motivator for me, it just made me work that much harder and just go for it for today,” Ricker said.
Ricker’s American rival Lindsey Jacobellis, the Turin silver medallist, was eliminated from contention in the semifinal. The two appeared to make contact early in the race. Jacobellis was the consolation final winner.
“I don’t think we clipped, we were definitely really close right out of the start, and I don’t know what happened to her,” Ricker said. “I don’t know where she went down, I just tried to stay on my line and focus on what I was doing.”
Turin bronze medallist Dominique Maltais of Petite-Riviere-St-Francois, Que., was eliminated after she crashed in both qualifying runs.
Cypress is Canada’s most lucrative venue of the 2010 Games. Montreal moguls skier Alexandre Bilodeau captured Canada’s historic first home-won gold medal on Sunday at Cypress. On Monday, Mike Robertson of Edmonton got silver in the men’s snowboardcross.
The West Vancouver resort has also provided the Vancouver Olympic organizing committee, known as VANOC, with its biggest weather challenges. Warm and wet El Nino-influenced weather wiped snow off the slopes in January. More than 350 truckloads of snow were brought 160 kilometres from Allison Pass in Manning Provincial Park to salvage competitions.
Allison Pass, coincidentally, is named for John Fall Allison, a B.C. gold rush pioneer in the 19th century.
News and views on Vancouver 2010 (and beyond) from Bob Mackin.