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Canadians strong at snowboardicross world championships

Maltais third, Ricker fourth in snowboardcross



For the sport of snowboarding, the 2011 World Championships are taking place this week in La Molina, Spain.

For many sports, the FIS World Championships are one step down from the Olympics, while for other sports not included in the Games they represent the pinnacle.  They take place every two years, ensuring that there is a championship the year after and the year before every Olympics.

In Canada, a world championship result in the top eight, top 12 or top 16 of a recognized event (depending on the number of entries) qualifies an athlete for $1,500 in monthly funding over two years, which can go towards living and training expenses - some extra incentive for athletes to do well.

The opening event at the snowboard world championships was the big air, which took place in a closed arena in Barcelona.

Canada has been well represented in big air events this season, with Sebastien Toutant winning the competition in Stockholm Sweden in December, but it was another young snowboarder that turned heads.

Zach Stone, 19, a Collingwood, Ontario rider, placed second in the big air, between Petja Piiroinen of Finland and Seppe Smits of Belgium - the best big air event ever posted by a Canadian at the championships.

"I came out here expecting to make the finals, which was my goal," he said. "That was a pretty good achievement, and I'm stoked. It means a lot obviously, it's the world championships."

Stone will also compete in the slopestyle later this week, and while he competes in halfpipe sometimes he's not on the list for La Molina. His goal is to compete for Canada in 2014 - potentially in the sport of slopestyle, which is under consideration by the International Olympic Committee, as well as big air.

Two other Canadians placed in the top 30, with Harrison Gray in 14th and Julien Beaulieu in 29th.

The snowboardcross event took place on Tuesday, with two women and three men from the Canadian team qualifying for the finals.

Despite having a lock on the top step of the podium so far this season, Maltais finished her day in third place, behind American Lindsey Jacobellis and Nelly Moenne of France.

Olympic gold medallist Maëlle Ricker was sitting in second place at one point, and challenging Jacobellis for the lead. She went a little wide, got caught up in the netting and crashed.

Jacobellis may have had a tough Olympics but she is also the defending world champion from 2009 and was fast all day at La Molina.

"Luckily I had a good start," she said. "But all the other girls also did pretty well. So, I was working with my legs all the way down, trying to stay on my edges as the snow turned out to be very slushy in the turns."

On the men's side, Alex Pullin of Australia was the upset winner. His gold medal was the first for his country in either World Cup or World Championship competition.

Seth Wescott and Nate Holland of the U.S. placed second and third, with Luca Matteotti of Italy rounding out the finals.

The top Canadian was Francois Boivin in seventh. Kevin Hill was 14th and Tom Velisek 31st.




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