Retirement of a Champion

Ten years ago, I participated in my first ever summer training camp. It was a 2 hourdrive up a narrow rocky logging road (which proceeded to ruin three tires on our SUV and ended with us driving 3km on rims trying to get a cell signal...but thats another story), then a 2.5 hour hike to our camp at the base of the glacier. There we were met in our youthful ignorance with our first taste of international level training conditions. 

The mornings started with a 4am wake up, a beautiful breakfast that generally didnt sit too well as a cause of the majority of us being unable to open our eyes wide enough to get the food into our bellies. That was followed with a cat ride up to the secondary base of the glacier, after which we would hop behind another cat with a t-bar attached and warned to keep an eye out for crevasses just in case one felt the need to swallow up a team mate. Clearly a time before liability and helicopter parents. By the time we got to the hill, it was 6am, the sun was beginning to creep above the mountain tops, showering the rock hard freeze-thawed world cup level course in a beautiful golden light. We would ride until just before noon when the course began to get too soft and crevasses would begin opening up all over the glacier.

The training camp played host to many high performance teams from Canada, many of the members of which would go to the olympics, and move up to the national team. We were lucky enough to also play host the the national team, our first initiation with what would turn into many of our mentors and idols which we would continue to look up to even to this day. One of those athletes being Maelle Ricker, the at that time 2x Olympian and longtime world cup competitor in both snowboardcross and Halfpipe. 

It was one of those fateful 4am mornings where I had my first encounter with Maelle's unusually laid back supportive nature, especially in such a testosterone fueled sport as SBX. Staring blearily at the oatmeal we were served for breakfast, I heard a gentle voice behind me say "you okay? Need some help?". Turning around confused as any 15 year old up before the crack of dawn in the middle of July, I was standing face to face with a shorter woman in a slouchy toque and an infectious smile, who I would learn was Maelle Ricker. Its funny how you can look up to people for years, without ever knowing what they look like because of their "snow-costumes". Confused, I nodded, she reached towards my bowl, said "let me help you out," and proceeded to layer up my oatmeal with all sorts of wonderful accouterments.

Throughout the many years proceeding that morning, I would see Maelle, at nationals, local World cups and Norams. Always happy to say hello, have a chat, or help out any developing athletes with some line or training advice. Always with an infectious smile and an enthusiasm not many athletes with her level of accomplishment would provide. She was always a welcome voice and positive attitude at any competition. Maelle embodied the positive boisterous nature that is required in a sport where there isnt much pay, and the only reward is the overwhelming success of getting into the finish corral first. With the time that she has spent in this sport, really since the very beginning, she has done and accomplished more in the small sport of SBX then almost anyone else. From multiple what would be "career-ending" injuries to coming back and standing on the podium time and time again, she has made a lasting impression on many developing athletes and coaches and she will be missed thoroughly. 

We look forward to getting to see what Maelle will get to accomplish in the coming years and that her legacy stays strong in the canadian snowboard culture, not just as a competitor, but as a mentor and ambassador.

- Brenden