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Maelle Ricker Wins Legendary Banked Slalom Despite Injury

Maelle_RickerMaelle RickerIt takes a certain amount of determination and grace in becoming Canada’s first woman to capture Gold inside Canadian borders.

But those are exactly the ingredients Maelle Ricker employed at the 2010 Vancouver Games as she captivated a gold-hungry Canadian populous with her tantalizing victory in Snowboard Cross.

Ricker’s victory came just two days after Alexandre Bilodeau cemented his name in history as the first Canadian Gold Medalist on home soil, as previous endeavors from 1976 Montreal and 1988 Calgary failed miserably.

I was fortunate enough to meet Maelle within hours of her legendary medal run in 2010 as I was working on the telecast for CTV, the host nation broadcaster. Ricker came through our facility for the mandatory (and sometimes laborious) round of interviews, and suffice it to say, her presence exuded a calm but aggressive mentality toward racing.

Ricker can only be described as reserved off the mountain, but come race time, she is an undeterred competitor. Ricker’s disposition stuck with me far beyond the quotes she provided.

So it came as no surprise when I learned that Ricker shrugged off a broken wrist and partially dislocated shoulder suffered on Jan. 18 at the World Snowboarding Championships, to win the Legendary Banked Slalom Race this past weekend.

Ricker originally attended the event as a spectator, traveling to the event from her nearby residence in Squamish, B.C. However, a brief ride before the event proved that her arm was ‘okay enough’ to compete in the race.

Although daring, it turned out to be a good decision as Ricker tucked her screw-and-plate infused left arm into her jacket and won the Pro Women’s Event for the fifth consecutive time.

In the true Ricker style, she joking told reporters after the race, “I started cruising around on my board (on Friday) and I thought this doesn’t feel too bad, this is okay. I kind of went against the grain a bit, but I don’t regret it. I had a great weekend, the most fun weekend of the season.”

It took Ricker a tidy 1 minute and 31 seconds to traverse the course at Mt. Baker in Washington State this past weekend, which was two seconds better than American Maria DeBari, who was racing near her hometown of Glacier, Wash.

The third place finisher, Mami Yamada, also dealt with extenuating circumstances as she raced twenty weeks into her pregnancy. Although Yamada was ‘snowboarding for two’, she finished with a best time of 1 minute and 36 seconds – good enough for third.

Continuing to protect the arm, Ricker accepted the race’s standard reward – an embroidered, tan Carhartt Brand Jacket and the highly desired Duct Tape Trophy.

The prizes were as good as gold to Ricker, who with a big smile, remarked, "It's such an amazing event. It unites all sides of the sport - all ages, all levels, all styles of snowboarding."

Ricker’s participation last week could be a good indicator that she may enter some, if not all, of the remaining World Cup events schedule for late February and March.

She currently ranks second behind fellow Canadian Dominque Maltais on the World Cup Tour in Women’s Snowboard Cross with 2200 points.

-Ryan O'Leary

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