Ricker vs. JacobellisThirty-one-year-old Maelle Ricker isn't just a former Winter X gold medalist, she's Lindsey Jacobellis' greatest threat and has, in fact, been beating her since WX13.
The Canadian has twice topped the Winter X Snowboarder X podium, once in '99 and again in 2006. The seven years between WX gold ties SnoCross athlete Tucker Hibbert for the most years between WX wins. The versatile rider left Snowboarder X from 2002-2005 to focus exclusively on halfpipe, but she didn't miss a beat upon her return.
Ricker seeks a third WX gold in 2010, and she's the biggest threat to keep Jacobellis from her second three-peat. Since her second WX title, Ricker has been at the pinnacle of the boardercross world, winning the FIS World Cup overall standings in 2008 and finishing second in 2009. With two FIS World Cup wins already under her belt for 2010 (Chapelco, ARG, and Telluride, Colo.), she's poised to top the WX podium once again. And while the 2010 Canadian Winter Olympic team has yet to be named, Ricker is a likely lock and a favorite for Olympic gold.
Of course, Ricker will have to beat five-time WX winner Jacobellis for the victory. The two have battled for sport supremacy since 2006 and have split FIS World Cup titles the past two years. They have only been together in the Winter X Final twice (2007 and 2009), and Jacobellis has beaten Ricker both times.
Ricker grew up in the shadow of Cypress Mountain, where the 2010 Winter Olympic Snowboard Cross event will be held in February. A multi-sport Winter Olympian, she finished fifth in Half Pipe at her first Winter Olympics in '98. She was the fastest qualifier in the Snowboard Cross event at the '06 Torino Games, advancing to the final. Unfortunately, she crashed near the top of the course, sustaining a concussion and finishing fourth while Jacobellis fell in sight of the finish, earning silver. Though the two don't have much of a history together at Winter X, they have plenty of experience racing against each other. Both have strong jumping skills, good starts and the skills to pass down-course. "I love racing Lindsey," Ricker says. "We have a good little battle going. She pushes the entire women's field in boardercross; she steps up the game."
The two have only raced head-to-head in a final a handful of times over the past year, but they did meet in the quarterfinals at the Telluride FIS World Cup event in Dec. '09. Jacobellis enjoyed a slight lead, but Ricker pulled even. The two bumped, Jacobellis went down and Ricker went on to win her second World Cup of the young season. As of December 21, 2009, Ricker has finished ahead of Jacobellis at five of the past six events in which they've both competed. Jacobellis is the one going for her second Winter X three-peat in 2010, but Ricker has the momentum.
"I'm not going to be taking it easy," Ricker says. Not if she wants to win.