Canada's Ricker wins gold in snowboard cross
'I'm pretty shaky and a little bit overwhelmed,' North Vancouver athlete says
Snowboard cross competitor Maelle Ricker of North Vancouver was still shaking hours after becoming the first Canadian woman to win an Olympic gold medal at home.
"I'm feeling so happy. I'm pretty shaky and a little bit overwhelmed," she told CBCSports.ca after her win on Tuesday at Cypress Mountain.
"I don't think it's fully hit me."
The 31-year-old finished well ahead of the three other competitors in the final heat, en route to her first Olympic medal in three appearances at the Winter Games.
Deborah Anthonioz of France took the silver and Olivia Nobs of Switzerland claimed the bronze. Helene Olafson of Norway finished fourth.
After crossing the finish line, Ricker wrapped herself in a Canadian flag as the crowd roared. On the podium, Ricker beamed, clapping and waving to the crowd.
In the jubilant chaos that followed, Ricker found her older brother, Jorli.
"I got to give my brother a big hug, which was pretty cool," she said. "He's the guy who actually showed me how to snowboard."
Later, Canada's newest Olympic champion dedicated her gold medal to fans from coast to coast "for all the support, all the cheering, all the help."
Success at Cypress
Ricker's medal is Canada's second gold at the Vancouver Games, after Quebec's Alexandre Bilodeau's incredible performance in the men's moguls at Cypress Mountain on Sunday.
"Watching Alex ski the other night, and then just seeing the amazing interview he gave after his run, it really, really got me fired up," she said. "I was so pumped for today."
It is Canada's fifth medal at the Vancouver Winter Games, and the fourth time in four days that a Canadian athlete has reached the podium at Cypress Mountain.
Jennifer Heil won silver in the women's moguls on Saturday, the country's first medal this Olympics. On Sunday, Bilodeau gave Canada its first Olympic gold on home soil and Mike Robertson won silver in men's snowboard cross on Monday.
1 Canadian falls, another rises
Fog delayed the women's snowboard cross event's start by two hours, and the individual runs were hampered by poor hill conditions that had the riders slipping and falling all day.
Canada's Dominique Maltais, the bronze medallist in Turin four years ago, failed to qualify for the final rounds after falling in two preliminary runs.
Ricker and Maltais had both made the podium in four of five World Cup events this season. Ricker is the current overall leader, with three World Cup gold medals and a bronze. Quebec native Maltais has a silver and three bronze medals.
"Dom is so incredibly brave for getting up there and doing her time trials. I know she had a really rough time in the course the last few days," said Ricker, who gave Maltais a hug after winning gold.
"She's so tough. I'm really, really, really sad for her, but I'm so proud that she got on her board and did her run."
Ricker also fell during her first run, but managed to secure a spot in the quarter-finals with a solid time in her second run.
"The conditions were definitely tricky, but nothing that was unexpected," she said. "I'm used to riding in the rain and fog."
Medal favourite Jacobellis out in semis
American Lindsey Jacobellis, a medal favourite, fell in the semifinals.
The 24-year-old threw up her hands in frustration, and grabbed her head as Ricker sped on to make the final round.
Jacobellis was looking for redemption after celebrating prematurely and falling as she led the pack in the finals of the sport's Olympic debut in 2006.
Switzerland's Tanja Frieden took the gold, while Jacobellis recovered to win silver.
Maltais claimed the bronze, while Ricker fell hard and was knocked unconscious. She was hospitalized with a concussion, and has said she has no memory of the race.
For Ricker, it was a long, bittersweet journey from Italy to Vancouver.
"I just feel like Turin was a part of the story. It gave me this motivation to work that much harder … and be able to perform today," she said.
"And luckily that's what happened."