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LAKE LOUISE, Alta. -- With the Winter Olympics coming over the horizon, its tempting to want to wrap Canadas top athletes in bubble wrap so they stay in one piece over the next few weeks. Sorry, cant happen, says snowboarder Maelle Ricker, the reigning Olympic champion in womens snowboard cross. The start of Rickers season was delayed by a concussion, but she vows she wont back off between now and February, when the Winter Games will be held in Sochi, Russia. "You cant be hesitating or hanging back or holding things back," she said Friday at Lake Louise. "It doesnt work that way. Thats just not the way to look at it. Youve got to keep your level of riding, keep progressing and hopefully you peak in February." Ricker became the first Canadian woman to win a gold medal in a home Games when she won in 2010 in Vancouver. She says a training crash "sent me on my head" earlier this month in Austria. The 34-year-old from Squamish, B.C., returned to Canada with a mild concussion instead of racing the first World Cup of the season in Montafon, Austria. The cobwebs cleared in time for Ricker to compete at the Sportcheck Snowboard World Cup in Lake Louise, which is the closest boardercross race to home shes had since winning gold on Cypress Mountain. Ricker and Dominique Maltais of Petite-Riviere-St Francois, Que., qualified Friday for the womens quarter-finals, semifinals and finals Saturday. Calgarys Chris Robanske was first in mens qualifying. Hell be joined in Saturdays main event by teammates Rob Fagan of Squamish and Kevin Hill of Vernon, B.C. Robanske, Ricker and Maltais have already qualified for Sochi. Ricker is also the reigning world champion after winning this years title in Stoneham, Que. Maltais, 33, won the overall World Cup snowboardcross title each of the last three years and was a bronze medallist at the 2006 Winter Games. Robanskes World Cup win at Blue Mountain in Collingwood, Ont., last season was the first by a Canadian male since 2007. Maltais opened this season finishing second in Montafon. Shes been a model of consistency and her reward has been the crystal globe that goes to World Cup champions. "You have to be on it pretty much every race," Maltais said. "I love what Im doing. Im always looking to improve myself. "Everything Im eating, everything Im touching is to make me a faster, better athlete and a better person too." Maltais and Ricker make Canada a double medal threat in womens boardercross in Sochi. The two women are supportive of each other and will high-five each other even before going head-to-head in a final. "I have so much respect for Dom when were on course," Ricker said. "Shes really pushed the level the last few years. Its really made our whole girls team rise up. "When were on course, were definitely not trying to take each other out. Thats not the idea. The idea is we both get to stand on the podium." Instead of racing each other in four-boarder heats as they do Saturday, the snowboarders race alone against the clock in qualifying. The top 32 men and 16 women advance. Maltais was second and Ricker fifth among women. Robanske was the fastest man with Fagan third and Hill 16th. Lake Louise is a rare race close to home for Robanske, who learned to snowboard at Calgarys Canada Olympic Park at the age of nine. He crashed in Montafon and is racing with injured soft tissue in his right elbow. "What we do is extreme and injuries happen," Robanske said. "If anything, its kind of an advantage for me. I put less pressure on myself when I have something wrong or somethings not working. I think Im going to have a good day tomorrow." Ricker has achieved the pinnacle of her sport, but she doesnt see Sochi as a place where she cant do better than she did in Vancouver. "I dont think about that at all," she said. "If youre thinking about that then maybe youre kicking yourself in the butt. "The big thing that most of us are looking for is that feeling of the perfect run where everything comes together. I really hope its going to produce a good result, but one thing I definitely realized in Vancouver was it was the whole journey leading up to that day and thats sort of where Im at right now." Curtis Samuel Womens Jersey . The 18-time champions, who havent won the title since 1990, moved two points behind Arsenal after the leaders were stunned 6-3 at Manchester City on Saturday. Defending champion Manchester United trails Arsenal by 10 points after winning 3-0 at Aston Villa to avoid a third successive league loss. Ryan Kalil Jersey . Those who impressed in each of the three events were asked to attend the main CFL Combine which begins Friday in Toronto. http://www.thepanthersofficialstore.com/...rs-jersey/ . But this time, the Gunners weathered the storm. Arsene Wengers team was on the ropes in the early stages of a lively FA Cup tie, until Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored a goal against the run of the play. Will Grier Jersey . -- Stanley Johnson scored all 18 of his points in the second half, T. Luke Kuechly Panthers Jersey . According to TSN Edmonton reporter Ryan Rishaug, agent Rick Valette met with Oilers senior VP of hockey operations Scott Howson and general manager Craig MacTavish on Monday to kick off the talks.With the second half of the season well underway and a two-and-a-half week Olympic break coming up, the NHLs Mar. 5 Trade Deadline isnt that far off and teams will be making decisions on whether to buy, sell and decide which players can make the biggest difference and hold the greatest value. Check out todays trade rumours and speculation from around the NHL beat. And follow TSN.ca through Deadline Day for all the updates. While the Windows Open After being extended by the Ottawa Senators through 2016, general manager Bryan Murray said he was ready to make moves to add the missing pieces for a Stanley Cup run. Speaking with TSN Hockey Insider Pierre LebBrun of ESPN.com, Murray said "I think we do have a good number of young people I would think other organizations would be interested in." Murray made it clear, however, that Curis Lazar - the teams 2013 first round draft pick - would not be traded by the team. The target for the Senators was narrowed down by Murray, "probably the one area that like a lot of teams we still need is another forward that has some impact, either in the scoring part of it or the physical part. Either/or, and I think that would address a need on our hockey team." Gateway to the Cup? Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal believes that the St. Louis Blues will try to upgrade their goaltending by the trade deadline and could target Buffalo Sabress goaltender Ryan Miller.dddddddddddd The Blues could offer goalie Jaroslav Halak and a prospect or young forward in exchange for Miller but will not trade winger Dmitrij Jaskin. Wheeling and Dealing Matheson also reports the Pittsburgh Penguins would like to acquire Winnipeg Jets winger Blake Wheeler to play with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz on the teams first line. The main obstacle, according to Matheson, is that the Jets are not interested in accepting draft picks in exchange for core players. The Penguins are reportedly willing to trade defenceman Simon Despres, their 2009 first round pick. Blue Line, Blue Chip Addition? According to Matheson, the Anaheim Ducks are looking to upgrade their defence and would like to add Dan Girardi of the New York Rangers. The Ducks are willing to move Luca Sbisa, Sheldon Souray and their two first round picks in 2014 (their own and the pick they acquired from Ottawa in the Bobby Ryan trade). Girardi is slated to become anunrestricted free-agent at the end of the season. Not Good Enough Wes Gilbertson of the Calgary Sun reports Flames forwards Mike Cammalleri, Matt Stajan and Lee Stepniak are negatively impacting their trade value with their recent poor play. All three forwards have been linked to trade talk and will be unrestricted free-agents at the end of this season. ' ' '
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