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Ricker turns white into gold

Halfpipe, alpine teams close to the podium

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After a few tough weeks in World Cup and at X Games, Whistler’s Maëlle Ricker at last found herself back on top of the snowboardcross podium this past weekend in the World Cup at Sungwoo, Korea.

Ricker now sits on top of the snowboardcross standings with a gold and silver at the season opener in Chile, a fifth place finish two weeks ago in Switzerland, and a gold medal at Sungwoo. Only five World Cup snowboardcross races have been held to date.

Ricker’s Korean victory came at the expense of world and X Games champion Lindsey Jacobellis of the U.S., who placed second. Mellie Francon of Switzerland was third, while Zoe Gillings of Great Britain rounded out the final bracket.

Canada’s Dominique Maltais was knocked out of contention in the semi-finals, but managed to win the small final and place fifth overall.

Ricker now has six World Cup wins in snowboardcross on her resume, as well as two halfpipe wins, and countless podium appearances in both disciplines. Days before leaving for Korea, Ricker also defended her title at the Mt. Baker Banked Slalom, where she won the women’s pro category by more than six seconds. Her time would have placed her ninth among pro men, and ahead of snowboard legend Terje Haakonsen.

From B.C., Spencer O’Brien, Natasza Zurek, Leanne Pelosi, Megan Pischke, and Annie Boulanger were fourth, ninth, 11 th , 12 th and 13 th respectively.

On the men’s side the top Canadian in Korea was Robert Fagan in 10 th place. Mike Robertson, Tom Velisek, and Drew Neilson failed to qualify for the finals after the time trial. Pierre Vaultier of France won the gold medal, followed by Nate Holland of the U.S. and Mateusz Ligocki of Poland.

Fagan also raced the Mt. Baker Banked Slalom, placing second overall in pro men.

Other events at Sungwoo include halfpipe and parallel giant slalom, and Canadians were strong in both events.

In the women’s halfpipe, Canada’s Sarah Conrad and Mercedes Nicoll placed sixth and seventh respectively, with Nicoll just missing the cut for the six-rider finals. Katie Tsuyuki, Charmaine Ironside and Dominique Vallée were 13 th , 19 th and 21 st respectively.

Jiayu Liu of China took the gold medal, followed by Soko Yamaoka of Japan and Lindsey Jacobellis of the U.S.

On the men’s side the top Canadians were Whistler’s Justin Lamoureux in sixth, while Crispin Lipscomb placed 10 th , Jeff Batchelor 13 th , and Brendan Davis 19 th .

The win went to Ryoh Aono of Japan, followed by Gregory Bretz of the U.S. and Iouri Podladtchikov of Switzerland.

In the parallel giant slalom, Ontario’s Matthew Morison came close to the podium with a seventh place finish. Morison was solid in the qualifiers and first round of the finals, but lost to Benajim Karl of Austria in the quarterfinal. Karl went on to win the gold medal.

Morison had a 1.5 second lead on Karl after the first round of racing, but was disqualified in the second run.

Jasey-Jay Anderson was 13 th .

Behind Karl, Roland Haldi and Heinz Inniger of Switzerland were second and third respectively.

On the women’s side, Alexa Loo was the only Canadian to make it to the elimination round, and went out in her first duel against Doris Guenther of Austria. Like Karl, Guenther went on to win the gold medal, with Nicolien Sauberbreij of the Netherlands and Svetlana Boldykova of Russia in second and third.

The next stop on the World Cup circuit is Japan.

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