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No Canadians in World Cup opener

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Canada's halfpipe team stayed home for the World Cup opener at Saas-Fee, Switzerland last week, as did the U.S. team, leaving Europe and Asia to battle it out for the first medals of the post-Olympic season.

On the men's side it was Norway's Tore-V. Holvik was on top, followed by Ryo Aono of Japan. Mathieu Crepel edged out his French teammate Arthur Longo for the bronze.

The Chinese riders dominated in the women's event with Xuetong Cai first and Zhifeng Sun second. Ursina Haller of Switzerland edged out Soko Yamoako for third place.

There's a snowboardcross event in Austria Dec. 7-8, as well as a handful of big air events in Europe, but otherwise most of the competitions are scheduled for the New Year. The tour comes to Canada in February, with events at Stoneham, Quebec and Canada Olympic Park in Calgary.

While sports teams usually see a drop in funding after an Olympic Games - and especially a home Olympics - as well as the loss of athletes through retirement, Canada Snowboard is taking a different approach preparing for the future.

With their success in the 2010 Games - gold medals by Maëlle Ricker in snowboardcross and Jasey-Jay Anderson in the parallel giant slalom, a silver medal by Mike Robertson in snowboardcross, and two athletes qualifying for the finals in halfpipe (Mercedes Nicoll and Justin Lamoureux) - the team is guaranteed funding through Own The Podium, sponsors and other sports funding program. As a result, the team was able to announce a roster of 31 athletes for the 2010-2011 season, which includes the FIS World Snowboard Championships in Spain in January.

That roster will likely be increased with the announcement that the sport of slopestyle will be included in the championships this year for the first time, clearing a path that could lead to the Olympics.

In snowboardcross, the team includes Maëlle Ricker and Dominique Maltais on the women's side, with nine men taking part in the program: Francois Boivin, Dan Csokonay, Robert Fagan, Kevin Hill, Jake Holden, Chris Robanske, Mike Robertson and Tom Velisek. Drew Neilson announced his retirement from the team on Friday. He will serve as a technical assistant coach with the team.

It's a new era for Canada with the retirement of alpine snowboard veterans Jasey-Jay and Alexa Loo, although there is a lot of young talent on both the men's and women's squads. The women's team includes veterans Caroline Calve and Ekaterina Zavialova, who will be joined by Megan Farrell, Ariane Lavigne and Marianne Leeson. Matthew Morison and Michael Lambert will anchor the men's team. Steve Barlow, Matthew Carter and Darren Gardner will join them.

The freestyle team includes Sarah Conrad, Alex Duckworth, Mercedes Nicoll and Palmer Taylor on the women's side, with the men's team comprised of Jeff Batchelor, Justin Lamoureux, Derek Livingston and Brad Martin. That team will likely see a few additions with slopestyle and big air athletes.

The team doesn't expect to see as much success as in the past two seasons where national team riders set new records for medal wins. In 2009 the team earned 26 podiums (including three world championship medals), and in 2010 finished with 28 medals - more than any other nation.

However, with a mix of veterans and newcomers, the team's new high performance director, Robert Joncas, still expects to be competitive.

"With the cancellation of a World Cup race this fall and the departure of Jasey-Jay Anderson, expectations for number of podiums on the FIS World Cup tour will be less this year in comparison with last year," he said. "But our goal remains for our teams to be very competitive and relentlessly ride for the podium at every occasion."

 

 

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