Ricker’s Ride Golden From the Very Start
Maëlle Ricker made sure that a gold medal was hers to take. The North Vancouver native said her aim in the final was to explode out of the gate – and explode she did. On the same run where Mike Robertson won silver one day earlier, Ricker did one notch better and took home Canada’s second gold medal of the Games.
Within about seven seconds, Ricker took a nearly incomprehensible lead right out of the starting gate. She curved into the first turn at least 10 metres ahead of the three other riders. After that tremendous start, a gold medal was well within grasp so long as she rode clean and fast.
The crowd at Cypress wound into a frenzy as Ricker launched over the last jump and crossed the line as Olympic champion. After the run, she slid to a stop, joyfully blowing a kiss to all of Canada.
“I’m so overwhelmed, I can’t believe it,” Ricker said. “I can’t say that I could see the crowd, I was just thinking ‘stay on your feet, absorb it and cross the line.”
Surely this will soften her memories of the 2006 Games, where Ricker crashed in the final race, missing the podium and suffering a concussion and torn back muscles. Since then, she has won nine World Cup races, including three this season. Yet she couldn’t crack the podium at the big events, finishing fourth and fifth at the 2009 and 2007 World Championships, respectively.
In these Games, though, Ricker’s runs were visibly marked by determination and cool confidence. She finished first in the quarter-final. She comfortably won the semifinal. She carried that momentum into the final and blazed down the course.
Ricker, whose older brother Jorli was a national snowboarder in the 1990s, is a three-time
Olympian in two disciplines. Before snowboard cross, she was a skilled halfpipe rider, finishing fifth in the event at the Nagano 1998 Olympic Winter Games. That was also the last Games where a Canadian snowboarder was crowned champion, with Ross Rebagliati winning the giant slalom event.
Now, Ricker takes her place in the record books after one of the most dominating performances of these Games thus far.