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World Cup: Big finish for Canadian snowboarders

Ricker, Anderson score wins at season finale

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Canadian snowboarders finished the season with a medal run at Valmalenco, Italy, taking five medals in snowboardcross, halfpipe and parallel giant slalom.

Snowboardcross was on Friday, and Whistler's Maƫlle Ricker managed to finish the season where she started, standing on top of the podium with a gold medal. It was her third podium in the last four races, coming after a string of fourth place finishes. Teammate Dominique Maltais, recovering from a series of injuries, finished a close second.

"It's definitely a good day for Canada," said Ricker. "The final race was pretty exciting. I had a good start and took the lead before Dominique passed me on the flats. I took her over in the hip-jump section of the course for the win. We had a good race from top to bottom together.

"The season was good. Lots of finals and top-fives, so I definitely have to be happy and pleased with that. There are some things to improve on next year as well. I think the biggest one is my focus before the big finals after having worked hard all that day."

Ricker was the defending overall champion heading into the season, but relinquished that title to Lindsey Jacobellis of the U.S., who finished the season with five victories. Ricker wound up second in the standings.

The bronze medal went to Zoe Gillings of the U.K.

On the men's side, the top Canadian was Francois Boivin in eighth place, with Robert Fagan ninth. Michal Novotny of Czech Republic took the win, followed by Nick Baumgartner of the U.S. and David Speicer of Germany.

The halfpipe finals were Saturday. It's been a tough season for Canada's World Cup halfpipe team, with little financial support for the athletes and bigger fields at competitions working to earn quota spots for 2010. Five different Canadian men have managed podiums this season, with Crispin Lipscomb, Justin Lamoureux, Jeff Batchelor, Brad Martin and Dustin Craven earning medals, but it's been dry for the women's team.

That changed in Italy, where Squamish's Sarah Conrad picked up the team's only medal of the finals with a bronze medal performance. It was her best result since returning from injury.

"The season got off to a slow start but definitely picked up near the end," she said. "Podiums are a good way to shut it off and hopefully we'll get some more next year."

Conrad finished her season ranked 13 th .

Whistler's Mercedes Nicoll was close to winning a medal of her own with a fifth place finish.

Jiayu Lui of China took the win, as well as the overall World Cup title. She was followed by Holly Crawford of Australia.

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