Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Full Steam Ahead to Sochi for Snowboarder Maelle Ricker despite Concussion

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Full Steam Ahead to Sochi for Snowboarder Maelle Ricker despite Concussion

Article excerpt

Ricker bounces back from concussion

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LAKE LOUISE, Alta. - With the Winter Olympics coming over the horizon, it's tempting to want to wrap Canada's top athletes in bubble wrap so they stay in one piece over the next few weeks.

Sorry, can't happen, says snowboarder Maelle Ricker, the reigning Olympic champion in women's snowboard cross.

The start of Ricker's season was delayed by a concussion, but she vows she won't back off between now and February, when the Winter Games will be held in Sochi, Russia.

"You can't be hesitating or hanging back or holding things back," she said Friday at Lake Louise. "It doesn't work that way. That's just not the way to look at it. You've got to keep your level of riding, keep progressing and hopefully you peak in February."

Ricker became the first Canadian woman to win a gold medal in a home Games when she won in 2010 in Vancouver.

She says a training crash "sent me on my head" earlier this month in Austria. The 34-year-old from Squamish, B.C., returned to Canada with a mild concussion instead of racing the first World Cup of the season in Montafon, Austria.

The cobwebs cleared in time for Ricker to compete at the Sportcheck Snowboard World Cup in Lake Louise, which is the closest boardercross race to home she's had since winning gold on Cypress Mountain.

Ricker and Dominique Maltais of Petite-Riviere-St Francois, Que., qualified Friday for the women's quarter-finals, semifinals and finals Saturday.

Calgary's Chris Robanske was first in men's qualifying. He'll be joined in Saturday's main event by teammates Rob Fagan of Squamish and Kevin Hill of Vernon, B.C.

Robanske, Ricker and Maltais have already qualified for Sochi.

Ricker is also the reigning world champion after winning this year's title in Stoneham, Que. Maltais, 33, won the overall World Cup snowboardcross title each of the last three years and was a bronze medallist at the 2006 Winter Games.

Robanske's World Cup win at Blue Mountain in Collingwood, Ont., last season was the first by a Canadian male since 2007.

Maltais opened this season finishing second in Montafon. She's been a model of consistency and her reward has been the crystal globe that goes to World Cup champions. …

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