Canada's Maltais wins silver in snowboard cross
On that fateful day four years ago, Dominique Maltais was at the low point of her snowboarding career, frustrated, injured, and out of Olympic medal contention before she even got a chance to really compete.
Even there, lying in a heap after crashing on Cypress Mountain during a qualifying run -- her lung collapsed, coughing up blood -- she began to think about how she could re-dedicate herself to the pursuit of Olympic glory.
“I’ve been on a mission for the last four years,” Maltais said Sunday.
That mission brought her back from her snowboarding nadir to an elite status in the sport – X-Games champion, world championship silver medallist and now, an Olympic medallist for the second time.
“It was the hardest time in my life back then,” she said, “But it’s for sure one of my best days today.”
Maltais raced to a silver medal Sunday in the women’s snowboard cross, adding to a bronze she won in Turin in 2006, and capping a four-year period of intense physical, mental and nutritional training with a most satisfying reward.
“For me, what happened in Vancouver wasn’t normal but I took my life in my hands and I decided to have revenge and show the world how good I can be and how fast I can be on the course,” Maltais said after finishing second to Eva Samkova of the Czech Republic in the snowcross final.
“The last four years I’ve been improving myself and focusing to get faster on that kind of track, just for today. I made it happen today so I’m really, really happy.”
Maltais never had a chance to go for gold. Samkova was the fastest qualifier and never trailed in any of the quarter-final, semifinal or final races.
Maltais had to work a lot harder to get her hardware. She won her quarter-final and semifinal heats but had to come from behind both times.
“I don’t know why, it’s probably the stress, but I didn’t have any good starts, especially for my semifinal and big final,” Maltais said.
In the semifinal she had a bad start and was fourth before the wild nature of snowcross took centre stage. First she took out Australian Belle Brockhoff while making a tight pass on the first bank and then narrowly avoided a dangerous collision when leader Lindsey Jacobellis of the United States fell in front of her on the second bank. Because of her agility, Maltais managed to sneak past the fallen Jacobellis and soared to the bottom in first place.
In the final, Maltais started in third but made an early pass and held onto silver position all the way down the mountain.
“I knew that if I had a bad start, I could do some passes there and that’s what I did,” she said of the semifinal adventure. “It’s part of the game, so that’s what I did, I took off the girl from Australia and Lindsey as well on the last bank.”
After putting as much work in as she did since Vancouver, Maltais suffered a knee injury less than a month ago at the X-Games in Colorado. She received cortisone shots Sunday just so she could get on the course at all.
“I felt like I was 20 years old, but we’ll see tomorrow morning if I still feel like this,” she said.
Her father Gerald Maltais, who is the mayor of their hometown of Petite-Riviere-St. Francois, Que., was waiting for Dominique at the bottom of the hill Sunday, he too feeling relief over his daughter finally getting a chance to exorcise the demons of Vancouver.
“To see her winning a silver medal at the Olympic Games, that’s for sure the most beautiful day of my life,” he said. “No matter the colour of her medal.”
Chloe Trespeuch of France won the bronze medal Sunday, while notables like 2010 Olympic gold medallist Maelle Ricker of Canada and Jacobellis both fell and didn’t even qualify for the final.
Maltais, however, was not to be denied. There had been too much involved in this quest of hers, she had come too far to let anything get in her way.
“For four years, everything I was touching, everything I was eating, was all part of the mission to be a better athlete, get faster on that course,” she said.
“Like they say, hard work pays off and I think it did today.”
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