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Maltais, Ricker on top at snowboardcross opener

Toutant wins air and style competition in China

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The Canadian snowboardcross team came out swinging in Austria on Tuesday, winning three medals.

On the women's side, Dominique Maltais took the win ahead of Whistler's Maëlle Ricker, while Tom Velisek earned the silver medal in the men's competition.

"It definitely feels good for my confidence," said Maltais. "I had been waiting a long time for this win.

"All my runs were pretty solid. The training we had yesterday went really well. I had some great training in the months and weeks leading up to the season.

"I had a great start in the final race, and it was a tight one with Maëlle all the way through. Both Maëlle and I knew our lines, so we played back and forth. We both did what we had to do and it made for a really nice race."

Maltais has not been on top of the podium since March of 2006. She struggled with injuries for a few years and has slowly started to re-establish herself as a leader in the sport. She earned five podiums last season, but finished behind Ricker on four occasions.

For Ricker, the defending Olympic gold medallist, it was a good start.

"The organizers did such a great job with the event and preparing the course," she said. "Dom and I had some good battles right through the final. It was a very cool final and a great start to the season. I am very happy to be back on snow and racing."

Ricker and Maltais combined for 12 medals last season. Both have their eye on the World Championship title up for grabs in January.

Yuka Fujimora of Japan was third, while Deborah Anthonioz of France placed fourth.

On the men's site, Squamish's Tom Velisek placed second to American Nate Holland, while teammate Dan Csokonay also made the finals to place fourth. Mario Fuchs of Austria picked up the bronze medal.

Kevin Hill was seventh, Rob Fagan 18th, Christopher Robanske 19th, Francois Boivin 21st and Jake Holden 22nd.

It was Csokonay's best World Cup result to date, improving on a previous best of 19th overall at the end of last season.

There was a second snowboardcross race on Wednesday, after which point the team will fly back to North America for an event in Telluride, Colorado.

Snowboardcross was not the high point for Canada Snowboard this week.

On Dec. 4, Quebec's Sebastien "Toots" Toutant won the 6Star Oakley Shaun White Air and Style competition in China, earning $50,000 U.S. It was his second victory in a row, after placing first in the World Cup Big Air in Sweden in November.

"It's awesome, I think it's by far the best moment of my life, for sure," he said.

His winning trick was a cab 1260 double cork - switch takeoff, with three-and-a-half rotations, while getting almost inverted twice during the spin.

With slopestyle being added to the World Championship calendar, and under consideration for inclusion in the 2014 Olympic Games, Toutant is a welcome addition to the Canadian team this season.

 

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