Whistlers Maëlle Ricker enhanced her reputation as one of the top all-around snowboarders in the world last weekend, earning two silver medals in snowboardcross at the World Cup opener at Valle Nevado, Chile.
With only a handful of events remaining to qualify for the 2006 Winter Games in Torino, Italy, Ricker was facing a tough field that included most of the top names in the sport. Snowboardcross may be a new Olympic discipline, but with more than 15 years as a pro and later World Cup event, the competition is as tough as it gets.
The Chilean World Cup week kicked off on Sept. 14 with the first of two World Cup halfpipe events in very icy conditions. Eighteen-year-old Hannah Teter of the U.S. claimed gold in the first event, followed by Doriane Vidal of France and Holly Crawford of Australia.
Whistlers Mercedes Nicoll was the top Canadian in fifth place, while Dominique Vallée finished 10 th . Ricker, who is also hoping to qualify for the Olympics in the halfpipe, finished 15 th to further her goal. Sarah Conrad of Nova Scotia was 18 th .
The first mens halfpipe went to World Cup vet Xaver Hoffman of Germany, followed by Daniel Franck of Norway and Antti Autti of Finland.
The top Canadian was Ontarios Brad Martin in seventh place, followed by Whistlers Dan Raymond in 15 th . Crispin Lipscomb and Mike Michalchuk, both Whistler riders, were 28 th and 35 th respectively. Justin Lamoureux, who won silver at the FIS Snowboard World Championships but ended his season with a broken ankle, finished 51 st .
In the second halfpipe, Teter and Vidal once again finished first and second, but it was Whistlers own Mercedes Nicoll who would take the bronze medal.
A former member of the Whistler Valley Snowboard Club who grew up in Whistler, Nicoll has established herself as the most aggressive and consistent rider on the national team. She won the national championships in 2004 and 2005, and was on the World Cup podium three times in the 2004-05 season.
Vallée was 12 th , Sarah Conrad 14 th , and Ricker 19 th .
In the second mens halfpipe it was a mostly Finnish affair with Autti and Mikka Hast finishing first and third, while Mathieu Crepel of France took the silver.
Brad Martin was the top Canadian once again, this time moving up to fifth while Dan Raymond moved up to 10 th place improving his Olympic prospects considerably.