I know you're not supposed to focus on results and titles," said Maëlle Ricker, "but it was the one missing piece on my resume. I definitely had a lot of goals technically and physically for the weekend, but I also really wanted to get that title — especially to get it on Canadian soil."
The missing piece was a World Championship title, something that has eluded the most successful athlete in snowboardcross history. She won the Olympic title in 2010 and has 39 World Cup medals to her credit stretching back to 1997 — including a few medals in the sport of halfpipe when she was a dual-sport athlete. She won the overall World Cup Crystal Globe in 2010, and the snowboardcross overall title in 2008 and 2010. She won at X Games twice, and has now won the Mt. Baker Legendary Banked Slalom six times in a row.
But through it all she's never won at a World Championship. Her best result at the event before last week's win at the MAZDA FIS Snowboard World Championship at Stoneham, Quebec, was a bronze medal in Whistler back in 2005. Injuries kept her out of one event, but otherwise she always finished just short of the podium — fourth place in 2011 and 2009, fifth in 2007 and fourth way back in 1997.
She started competing at age 17 and now, at age 34, she's been on the World Cup tour for half of her life.
To get the medal this time around she had to get the best of teammate Dominique Maltais, the Crystal Globe winner from last season and the winner of the first two events this season. While they're friends off the course, and have worked together in a few races to fend off other riders, both of them were looking for the World Championship title.
"Dom qualified second and I was in top spot, so right away it set the stage for a head-to-head battle in the finals," Ricker told the Pique from Quebec on Monday, en route to the airport and the next World Cup at Blue Mountain in Ontario.
"I managed to be a little bit quicker on the top part of the course, got out of the gate in the lead and just held myself there the entire way around the course. It was really important on that course to make landings and exit the corners with as much speed as possible because there were a lot of flat traversing sections where someone could catch you. I just had to get myself in the lead before the bottom of the course, which was quite a bit slower."
Ricker and Maltais have shared numerous podiums over the last few years and starting with Ricker's return last season from injury they've claimed the lion's share of the gold medals over the past two seasons. It's no fluke, says Ricker, as the two have stepped up training, both on course and off, while constantly improving on their equipment to give themselves every advantage.