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Snow Queen

Dominique Maltais goes for gold in Sochi

By Jason Santerre

Snowboard Cross, or SBX to the cool kids, debuted as a winter event at the 2006 Olympics in Turin. To the uninitiated, SBX looks like a high-speed death wish. For the best riders in the world it’s all about defying gravity and besting not only your opponents but the elements as well. It’s a display of dexterity and grace racing down a specially built course of twists, turns, jumps, and varied terrain.

Come February, said terrain will stretch across the slopes of Sochi, Russia, where all eyes, at least in this part of Canada, will be on Dominique Maltais, the reigning World Cup Champion and 2006 Olympic bronze medalist.

Maltais never had to work too hard at conquering her fears. The self-confessed tomboy from Petite-Rivière-St-Francois started skiing at Le Massif before most kids can ride a bike. “As soon as I saw snowboarders, I knew that was for me,” says Maltais today. “I watched snowboarding films and read snowboarding magazines—I was hooked. I guess I’m just drawn to the extreme stuff.” It’s no surprise, then, that when Maltais isn’t training for the Olympics she’s fighting fires as a member of the Montreal fire department.

That thrill-seeking attitude is built on a base of serious dedication, physical strength and mental prowess that has propelled Maltais from weekend warrior to Olympic-caliber athlete. And since Sochi will be her third Olympics, Maltais says she’ll be more mentally prepared. “Knowing how to train for every specific thing is part of my preparation now,” she says, acknowledging the fact that winning is 80 percent preparation.

So imagine the difficulty in proper preparation when not only is your diet an issue, so is everything you ingest. Just two months prior to the 2010 Vancouver Games, Maltais was devastated to learn she had celiac’s disease. The digestive system of someone suffering from celiac’s reacts negatively to the presence of gluten and, over time, damage to the inner lining of the small bowel reduces a person’s ability to absorb nutrients. For a fine-tined Olympic athlete, the news was a kick to the gut.

But with typical tenacity, Maltais used the diagnosis to make a dramatic dietary revamp and propel her self to the next level. “I made the proper adjustments and now, well I always read the ingredient listed. I also make sure I’m getting maximum nutrition out of every morsel.”

Maybe the dietary diagnosis came as a blessing in disguise. Not only does she eat healthier now, she says she has more energy, something that really pays off in the gym. “I’m lifting more weights than ever. I’m training longer and more intensely. Before, I would need to sleep after a meal. Not anymore.”

In the three seasons since Vancouver, Maltais has personalized her diet and fine-tuned her training to help improve her starts, her quickness and her overall technique. So far, she’s savored success, winning a pair of world championship medals and three straight Crystal Globes as the overall World Cup champion in snowboard cross. The world will be watching come February.

Winter 2014, Vol 6 N°1

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