Snowboarding

Kate Pettersen - Saturday Feb. 15, 2014 14:44 ET

Maëlle Ricker to defend Olympic gold in snowboard cross

Faces stiff competition from teammate Dominique Maltais

maelle-ricker-olympic-champion-snowboard-cross-sochi-ap
Reigning Olympic champion Maelle Ricker will make her season debut on Saturday at the World Cup snowboard cross in Lake Louise, Alta.  Ricker has pre-qualified for Sochi based on results from last season. (Samuel Truempy/Keystone/Associated Press)
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When Maëlle Ricker crossed the finish line at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver she became the first Canadian woman to win Olympic gold on home soil.

“It’s actually still an indescribable moment,” said Ricker. “When people ask me to put that moment into words it’s pretty much impossible.”

The 35-year-old snowboard cross star is set to make her fourth-career Olympic appearance on Sunday in Sochi.

This time around, she’s facing an uphill battle after suffering a compounded fracture in her left forearm while training in Aspen, Colo. Ricker had surgery less than three weeks before she was scheduled to compete at the Olympic Games.

"My goal is to be ready for the start gate in Sochi but I'll definitely hate pulling out of it," said Ricker, referring to the start gate at the top of the course.

"I've had a lot of injuries in my career and it's important to stay positive and focus on the privilege of competing for Canada at the Olympics."

The fearless competitor arrived in Sochi focused on being as fast as she can on Monday morning, regardless of the added pressure of entering the event as reigning Olympic champion.

“I think, well knock on wood, I think I thrive under pressure,” she said. “I really feel like I need that extra little bit to, sort of, push myself that extra little level where I’m right on that tipping point between being in control and totally out of control.

“I'm using it as excitement and it's definitely fuelling me to step it up to push myself.”

Podium potential for Canada

Another top contender in the women’s event is two-time Olympian Dominique Maltais of Petite-Rivière-Saint-François, Que., who enters the Games leading the overall World Cup snowboard cross standings.

Since the Vancouver 2010 Games, Maltais has landed on the World Cup podium 19 times — nine of those, wins.

“I’m more experienced, I have more wins under my belt and I think I have proved myself as an athlete,” said Maltais. “I’ve had good results, I’m going to give everything on February 16 to do well and finish on the podium with a big win.”

Like her Canadian teammate, she’s prepared to handle the pressure in Sochi.

“I think most of the time it’s about confidence and trusting yourself. Pushing yourself and you know your limits so just go for it.”

"I feel my place is here on the Canada team,” she said. “I smile all the time."

International factor

During a pre-event press conference in Sochi, Ricker noted aside from her Canadian teammate Maltais, her biggest rivals on race day will be Eva Samkova from Czech Republic and Lindsey Jacobellis of the United States.

“Eva is riding really well, she moves exceptionally on her board. Lindsey is back in the mix so it should be an exciting final."

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