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Whistler Olympians

In other words… Maëlle Ricker

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"Why do we fall? So we can get up again."

- Thomas Wayne, Batman Begins

The advice of Bruce Wayne's father rings no truer for anyone than Maëlle Ricker.

The 31-year-old star snowboarder is one of the favourites in snowboard cross at the 2010 Games after a disappointing finish four years ago in Torino. It was snowboard cross's debut at the Olympics. Ricker set the fastest qualifying time and won every round of competition.

Then, in the final run, she caught an edge right out of the start gate and fell so hard she sustained a concussion and had to be airlifted off the hill.

Such a stumble might have ended the career of another Olympian. Not Ricker. She bounced back from the fall and, with 12 World Cup medals to her name, is the number one snowboard cross racer heading into the 2010 Games. This Olympics is her revenge.

Ricker will be facing down more than a dozen other boarders in this year's event but she has a unique advantage: she knows the course at Cypress better than any of them.

Like most Whistler parents, geologist Karl and biology professor Nancy Ricker had Maëlle in a snowsuit from nearly the moment she learned to toddle.

"We used to take them out on skis, from the time they could basically walk," Nancy says of Maëlle and her older brother Jorli. "We have pictures of her when she was basically two, going out on these water skis that were made for kids.

"We have pictures of her with a bottle in her mouth and a snowsuit on, toddling around the mountain."

Taking Maëlle out to the slopes at such a young age might have been the spark that stoked a passion for danger in her daughter. When she was three, the family lived in a house in a hilly area of West Vancouver and their driveway had a steep incline. One day Maëlle went out with her Big Wheel tricycle - and an idea.

"She went flying down the driveway," Nancy says. "Basically there was a wall that dropped about five or six feet into the neighbour's yard below and she just went flying over it and ended up in their driveway.

"I thought, 'Oh my God, she's killed herself.' But she thought, 'Oh, great fun' and just started laughing. I just sat there and started thinking, she's a daredevil."

It's that risky nature that has no doubt helped make her a successful snowboarder - but it's likely not the only thing. Also essential to her success has been an intimate knowledge of Sea to Sky's mountains, instilled in her by her parents. The four of them would often go on summer camping trips.

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