Whether the track is bumpy, smooth, icy, or fluffy, Dominique Maltais is a contender on all snowboard courses.
The consistency that has produced three consecutive overall World Cup titles in snowboard cross continued Saturday in Lake Louise, Alta.
Maltais was second in the big final to Lindsey Jacobellis of the U.S. at the Sportcheck World Cup.
Her second podium in as many World Cup races vaulted Maltais into a familiar position at the top of the overall World Cup standings.
“I’m looking to be fast on every kind of course,” Maltais said. “Technical stuff was one of my weaknesses in the past and now it’s one of my strengths. I think right now, every kind of course I’m doing well.
“One of strengths is to be consistent and I showed it again today.”
Maltais was second in the season-opening World Cup in Montafon, Austria, earlier this month.
The 33-year-old from Petite-Riviere-St Francois, Que., won bronze in the 2006 Winter Olympics and is a medal contender again in Sochi, Russia, in February.
Maltais dominated her quarter-final and semifinal. She lost ground to Jacobellis on the first turn and couldn’t run the American down before the finish line.
“Even if it’s a second place I’m really satisfied,” Maltais said. “I want to step it up for the next couple of races and keep improving myself and be at my top level in Sochi.”
In snowboard cross, also called boardercross, athletes race a course of bumps, rolls and turns in heats of four with the top two advancing to the next round.
Similar to short-track speed skating, crashes are common and boarders can come from behind to win if the leaders go down.
Helene Olafsen of Norway took bronze and reigning Olympic champion Maelle Ricker of Squamish, B.C., was fourth in the women’s final.
In the men’s final, Jarryd Hughes of Australia, Konstantin Schad of Germany and Alex Deibold of the U.S. won gold, silver, and bronze, respectively.
Calgary’s Chris Robanske and Rob Fagan of Squamish were eliminated in the quarter-finals, while Kevin Hill of Trail, B.C., went out in the round of 16.
Ricker battled from behind to finish second in her semifinal and join Maltais in the championship round. But the 34-year-old crashed early in the final to fall out of medal contention.
“I definitely wish I could re-wind and re-do that big final,” Ricker said. “I was on a Sunday drive, but it’s Saturday afternoon.
“I was so slow out of the gate. I bumped with Helene, but it was really minor and I went down. I must have not had my weight on my board properly, knocked me the wrong way and I was on my bum.”
Lake Louise was Ricker’s first World Cup of this season. A mild concussion suffered during training for Montafon sent her home before the race.
So Ricker admitted to feeling nervous for her first final of the season. She was in trouble early in the semifinal, but generated speed off a banked turn to rocket from fourth to second and advance.
“That was a tough race and I’m happy I was able to step up and push myself because I needed that,” Ricker said. “I needed to be aggressive and go for it.”
Jacobellis qualified for the U.S. Olympic team with her victory. A broken thumb on her right hand was encased in a purple cast.
“I’m having a hard time getting good pulls out of the gate because I broke my thumb last race,” Jacobellis said. “I really was dependent on working the features to try and get back out ahead.
“We were definitely bumping and grinding in the first two turns. I was just trying to stay tough and hold my line, but I could hear everyone behind me. You knew you had to ride with no mistakes.”
Hughes won the gold in the first men’s final of his career.
“I just had as much fun as I could and it came together,” the elated Australian said. “I just hope I can keep the momentum going through to Sochi.”
Ricker, Maltais and Robanske have qualified for Canada’s Olympic team. Ricker won the women’s world title earlier this year. Robanske’s victory on Blue Mountain near Collingwood, B.C., last season was the first by a Canadian male since 2007.
In 70 career World Cup races, Maltais has stood on the podium 33 times and won 11 of those races. She has said the Sochi Games will probably be her final Olympics.
“She’s been training, working so hard in the gym, so hard on snow,” Ricker observed. “She’s an amazing athlete and it’s all paying off for her. It’s a great testament to how she’s preparing for each race. It’s definitely something to look up to, respect and learn from.”
The snowboard cross team races World Cups in Vallnord, Andorra, and Veysonnaz, Switzerland, in January. The X Games in Aspen, Colo., is their final event prior to the Winter Games.