WHISTLER, BC, December 11, 2003 — France and Italy’s men and women dominated in World Cup O’Neill Snowboard-Cross action today in Whistler, kicking off the Nokia Snowboard FIS World Cup with top performances by the world’s best. In the men’s competition France’s Florent Mather narrowly finished first ahead of Italy’s Simone Malusa in an incredibly close photo finish. Austria’s Dieter Krassnig finished third. The top Canadian finisher was Francois Boivin from Jonquiere, Quebec who finished 12th.

“I’m very happy about this win as it’s my first victory on the Snowboard-Cross World Cup circuit, said France’s Mather. Simone Malusa was not as happy as he had been leading until the very end. “I’m disappointed even though second place is not so bad, Simone said. “There was no big mistake. I looked over my shoulder and (Mather) was right there.

Top Canadian finisher Boivin was pleased with his result in his first competition of the season. “I was happy with my race today. I tried to press the guy all the way but he just stayed in front of me. It’s a little frustrating because I would have liked to reach the semi-finals.

A disappointing day for the Canadian team… Jasey Jay Anderson, currently ranked 3rd in the overall World Cup Snowboard-Cross standings, crashed in the qualifying round and didn’t make the finals. Drew Neilson, also favoured to do well, was beat out in the first round of finals and finished 18th. Carl Cowtan finished a respectable 16th.

In the women’s competition Karine Ruby of France finished first ahead of Jennifer Frino of Italy (second) and Marie Laissus of France (third). Canada’s Maelle Ricker finished 7th on her first season back in Snowboard-Cross competition.

France’s Ruby was extremely happy with her win. “I had good starts on all my runs so I was soon in front of the others. I found the course easy and so managed to stay ahead.

North Vancouver’s Ricker was also pleased. “I haven’t ridden this aggressively since a knee injury last season so I’m happy with today’s result. I was a little timid in the opening part of the course, but it was a good start to the week. Maelle will compete again in Saturday’s Halfpipe competition at 1:30pm.

The O’Neill Snowboard-Cross is an action-packed event that features 4 competitors racing side-by-side down a 200 metre run around different obstacles such as banks, tabletop jumps and mammoth rollers. The winners advance to the finals in a sudden-death showdown and the top 2 men and top woman finishers received invitations to the Winter X Games in Aspen Colorado, January 22-27.