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Sea to Sky riders top snowboard nationals

Ricker, Martin claim titles in snowboardcross, halfpipe

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Canada Snowboard is celebrating its best season in history. At the recent Olympics the team earned three medals - gold medals by Maëlle Ricker in snowboardcross and Jasey-Jay Anderson in parallel giant slalom, and a silver medal by Mike Robertson in the men's snowboardcross.

On the World Cup circuit the team earned 33 medals and three crystal globes - Maëlle Ricker won the overall title for snowboardcross and for snowboarding in general, while Justin Lamoureux took the crystal globe for men's halfpipe.

The team's success created a joyful atmosphere at the national championships in Quebec last week. For Canada's Olympic athletes it was a chance to show the rest of Canada how hard they've trained in recent years, while at the same time presenting an opportunity for up and coming riders to make their own mark on the snowboard scene.

The first competition was the halfpipe at Stoneham. Squamish's Brad Martin took the title for the fourth year in a row with Justin Lamoureux finishing second by less than two points. Junior rider Trevor Niblett turned heads with his third place performance.

"I was just having fun, riding with my friends," said Martin of the win. "That is what snowboarding is all about.

"My first nationals, I was 13, right here at Stoneham. I landed on my head and bruised my knee and wasn't able to do my second run. It's great for Canadian snowboarding that these kids are doing what they are doing today, harder tricks at a younger age. They have been snowboarding for a few years, and now they are landing them competing against guys on the national team."

On the women's side Palmer Taylor - just 17 - took her first national title. Whistler's Mercedes Nicoll, who placed sixth in the Olympics and was on the podium twice at the last World Cup events of the season, was second by just 1.1 points. Whistler's Katie Tsuyuki placed third.

The slopestyle was up next. Sebastien Toutant won the men's run, followed by Julien Beaulieu and Robby Balharry.

Alexandra Duckworth won the women's slopestyle, followed by Samm Denena and Whistler's Molly Milligan.

Olympic champion Jasey-Jay Anderson rounded out his season - and his career - with a win in the parallel giant slalom. He edged out teammate Matthew Morison in two runs for the gold medal, while Darren Gardner upset Pat Farrell in the men's small final to take the bronze.

"I had a great warm-up today," said Anderson. "My rival Matt Morison was in the final and he made me sweat. I had good runs and a lot of fun."

Although he says he'll miss competing, Anderson is happy with his decision to step down from the national team to spend more time with his family and get involved in other aspects of the snowboard industry.

On the women's side Alexa Loo edged out upstart Megan Farrell for the gold medal in the final runs, while Caroline Calve beat out Ekaterina Zavialova for the bronze medal.

Next up was an adaptive snowboard race in the slingshot format, which was essentially a time trial on a snowboardcross course. It was two events in one - a World Cup with international participation, and the national championships.

Less than two weeks after competing in the Paralympics in cross-country skiing Tyler Mosher was back in action on his board to defend his national title.

"It feels great to be the Canadian Champion," said Mosher. "The competition was tough and I didn't know whether I won. Out of the five competitors it was anyone's game."

Carl Murphy of New Zealand placed second in the World Cup race while B.C.'s Ian Lockey - usually Mosher's toughest competition - settled for third.

In the national standings Lockey moved up to second while Mike Fisher placed third. The junior title went to 14-year-old Zack Beaumont, a Paralympic snowboard hopeful who lit the torch at the Paralympic opening ceremonies.

Bibian Mentel of the Netherlands competed alone in the women's event.

The final event on the schedule was the snowboardcross. Maëlle Ricker won the women's competition while defending her national title, with Jacqueline Hernandez of the U.S. second, B.C.'s Carle Brenneman third and U.S. rider Chloe Banning fourth.

"I'm pretty happy," said Ricker. "It was a really fun race with the crazy spring - actually more like summer - conditions. It's been lots of fun to ride with all the young girls and a good get-together for Canada snowboardcross."

The men's competition was won by up-and-comer Kevin Hill, who just missed qualifying for the Olympics. Jake Holden was second and Robert Minghini and J.J. Tomlinson of the U.S. were third and fourth.

Other members of the Olympic team didn't fare as well, with Rob Fagan seventh, Francois Boivin eighth and Mike Robertson knocked out in the quarter finals after a crash.

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