By Andrew Mitchell
Despite a rough start at the World Cup finals in Stoneham, Quebec, Canadian snowboarders found the podium once again to improve on their already solid, if severely condensed, season.
The strongest finish of the season goes to Vancouver’s Drew Neilson, who won the previous three World Cup snowboardcross races heading into the finals and took the overall World Cup globe with a bronze medal performance. Nate Holland of the U.S., the only rider who could have upset Neilson, blew out in the qualifier to finish in a tie for 32 nd .
“I’m really stoked about winning my first crystal globe today,” said Neilson. “I had a good day today, but I would have loved to finish with another win. I rode well, but just didn’t have a great start on my final run.
“The crystal globe is something I’ve been working towards for my whole career, and it feels great to finally be able to claim that title.”
Pierre Vaultier of France won gold, while Nick Baumgartner of the U.S. placed second.
As for the other Canadians, eight men qualified for the finals. Francois Boivin was 11 th , Tom Velisek 13 th , Mike Robertson 17 th , Matthew Tunnicluffe and Ryan Hickey 20 th , Robert Fagan 22 nd , and Jasey-Jay Anderson 25 th .
On the women’s side, Whistler’s Maëlle Ricker had a solid day until she made an error in the semi-finals. She came back with a strong effort in the small finals to place fifth. Christelle Doyon was ninth, after qualifying in the top-16.
The gold went to Helene Olafsen of Norway, followed by Diane Thermoz Liaudy of France and Tanja Frieden of Switzerland.
Despite one of its best seasons yet in alpine, the Canadian racers failed to podium at the parallel giant slalom finals. Kimiko Zakreski of Calgary, the top Canadian, was 17 th , and Constance Boisvert placed 29 th .
The winner was Fraenzi Kohli of Switzerland, followed by Claudia Riegler and Marion Kreiner of Austria.
The men didn’t do as well, with only Michael Lambert, Jasey-Jay Anderson and Patrick Farrell cracking the top-30 in 27 th , 28 th and 29 th respectively. Matthew Morison, who won three medals for Canada as a rookie this season, placed 32 nd .
The gold went to Heinz Inniger of Switzerland, followed by Siegfried Grabner of Austria. Marc Iselin of Switzerland edged Nicolas Huet of France to place third.
In halfpipe, Canada’s hopes have been diminished on the men’s side by a series of late season injuries. Still, the team’s rookies stepped up once again. Brendan Davis of Ontario picked up a bronze medal behind Daniel Friberg of Switzerland and Japan’s Ryoh Aono. Brad Martin placed sixth, while Jeff Batchelor and Justin Lamoureux found themselves just out of the finals in 13 th and 14 th .
For the women, four athletes qualified for the final by finishing in the top-12. Sarah Conrad just missed a medal, placing a close fourth. Dominique Vallée and Mercedes Nicoll were seventh and eighth, while rookie Katie Tsuyuki placed 11 th . Maëlle Ricker just missed the finals, finishing 13th.
The winner was Switzerland’s Manuela Laura Pesko, followed by Australia’s Holly Crawford and Paulina Ligocka of Poland.
With the international season over, the next event on the calendar for Canadian riders is the Honda Canadian National Snowboard Championships in Calgary and Sunshine Village. Events get underway on Friday, March 23.