Meghan Hebert's bags were slightly heavier when she returned this week from a series of South American Cup snowboardcross races in Argentina and Chile, weighed down with the three medals she earned.
Hebert, who rides with the B.C. Snowboard Team, won silver medals in the first two events at Valle Nevado, Chile, placed fourth in the first of two races at Cerro Castor, Argentina, then won the last event. Now Hebert hopes to carry that momentum into the NorAm Cup season and to earn herself a chance to compete for Canada at the World Cup level.
"When I went down (to South America) I was not really expecting what I achieved, but the weather was good, the courses were good, the competition was good, and all the girls were phenomenal riders," she said. "Going into the races I was really focused and just started to ride better than I think I have in the past and in the first race I came out with second place. I knew I wanted to make the finals for all of it (South American series). I set goals for myself and achieved them, which was pretty exciting for me."
The next scheduled race for Hebert is the first NorAm Cup race in January, but she will be travelling to Austria with the provincial team this year to train and her coach is going to put her name forward to race in the World Cup season opener. "It's a wild card, but that's the plan," she said.
Hebert never competed before 2010. At the time she just got her Level 3 snowboard instructor certificate, she and a few friends entered the amateur Whistler Blackcomb Ski and Snowboard Cross races where she caught the eye of a coach with the national team who asked her if she'd like to race for the provincial team.
"I just (raced) for fun here and there, and then it was a total 180 and I was competing internationally with the B.C. team. Its a few years later, but I still can't believe it happened."
When she's not competing, Hebert coaches kids camps at Whistler Blackcomb and during the summer she coaches on the glacier with the Whistler Ski and Snowboard camp. "So everything is snowboarding, pretty much," she said.
She also spends a lot of time training to prepare for racing, following a program and fitting in dryland training at least five days a week.
"If we're not in the gym we're out hiking," she said. "We've been weight lifting to make our legs stronger, and also building our upper bodies up because the start is so important in our sport."
While there's still a chance to represent Canada at the Winter Games in 2014, Hebert is in no rush. She wants to move slowly to the national level, fitting in pro contests like the U.S. Grand Prix while she gets used to racing bigger courses.
"As a long-term goal I really want to make the national team, but I don't want too much pressure so I'm just taking it as it goes for now," she said. "I want to take my time and learn and get better, and hopefully in 2018 I'll be going. I don't want too much pressure, I want to enjoy snowboarding and enjoy being on the team."
One experience she's enjoying is the opportunity to train with national level athletes like World Cup champion Dominique Maltais and Olympic Champion Maëlle Ricker.
"We don't always get to train with them, but if they're going somewhere I know we'll try to tag along a little bit," she said. "It's awesome we have such strong, phenomenal riders, and they're so nice as well. They're always willing to help and chat with you. I'd say we've got a good little support group in the boardercross world."
Hebert was not the only Canadian on the podium in South America. In the first race, Canadians Shayna Goodwin and Tess Critchlow were first and third, while Syney Bannerman won the small final to place fifth, one spot ahead of Katie Anderson.
In the second race Hebert was the top Canadian in second, followed by Katie Anderson, Tess Critchlow and Shayna Goodwin, with Sydney Bannerman in seventh.
At the first race in Argentina, Tess Critchlow and Katie Anderson were second and third, while Hebert rounded out the finals in fourth. Goodwin and Bannerman were sixth and seventh.
On the final day when Hebert placed first, Anderson was second, and Goodwin, Citchlow and Bannerman were fifth through seventh.
Slopestyle athletes start strong
While the snowboardcross athletes were in South America, some of Canada's top slopestyle athletes headed to Australia for a series of pro events. The most recent was Stylewards, the Australian Slopestyle Championship. Canada's Antoine Truchon won first place and $6,000 Australian dollars, while teammate Maxence Parrot placed second. Jordan Phillips was eighth.
It's a long season but combined with results from previous events in New Zealand, Truchon came into September as the top-ranked slopestyle athlete on the World Snowboard Tour.