By Andrew Mitchell
With events cancelled throughout Europe over the course of the season and a disappointing world championships, the Canadian Snowboard Team at last rose to the challenge this past weekend at the Nokia FIS World Cup in Furano, Japan. All told the team netted three gold medals, one bronze medal, two fourth place finishes and several top-12 results.
The World Cup weekend got underway on Friday with the parallel giant slalom. Once again the hero of the day was Ontario’s Matthew Morison, who persevered in round after round of racing to at last upset Switzerland’s Simon Schoch in the final to win the first gold medal of his career.
A rookie this season, Morison now has a complete collection for his trophy case — bronze, silver and gold.
Meanwhile Mont Tremblant’s Jasey-Jay Anderson just missed the bronze medal after being edged out by Rok Marguc of Slovenia in the small final.
Whistler’s Mark Fawcett, the men’s alpine coach, gave high praise to Morison’s abilities.
“It was a really challenging course, we’ve had wind and snowstorms for the past few days,” he said. “But it was perfect for Matt. You had to be a super athlete, and a super technician, and he fits both of those. This was the best day in eight years for men’s alpine snowboarding.
“He just had some recoveries that would have broken anyone, and it was hard to believe that he just snapped back up sometimes. It showed that he had a great focus. He’s pretty impressive for a 19-year-old.”
Michael Lambert, another rookie competing with the national team as part of Project 2010, placed 12 th out of 43 racers.
On the women’s side of things Kimiko Zakreski made the finals, but ended her day in 12 th place. Christelle Doyon and Caroline Calve also cracked the top-30 in 20 th and 28 th respectively.
Isabella Dal Calbon of Italy took the gold, followed by Fraenzi Kohli of Switzerland and Alexandra Jekova of Bulgaria.
In the snowboardcross on Saturday, local rider Maëlle Ricker and Vancouver’s Drew Neilson each won gold medals against Olympic-calibre fields.
Ricker was the fastest qualifier the day before and won round after round until the finals, where she faced top U.S. rider Lindsey Jacobellis, the most dominant racer in the world for the past two years. Callan Chythlook-Sifsof of the U.S. and Diane Thermoz Liaudy of France also made the last heat, but given their performances earlier in the day this was obviously going to be a battle between Ricker and Jacobellis.