The Recovery and Resurgence of Dominique Maltais

Veteran snowboarder Dominique Maltais has won six career gold medals on the World Cup circuit. Three of them came during an amazing run this past December, a trail of success that sees her atop not only the snowboard cross standings (her sport), but all of World Cup snowboard.

Count three World Cup events this season, count three gold medals. With the World Snowboard Championships underway in La Molina, Spain, Maltais is the frontrunner in snowboard cross, ahead even of Olympic champion teammate Maëlle Ricker. This is not only a testament to her skill, but to her ability to bounce back after being knocked completely off-stride.

“It was the most important event in my athletic career,” Maltais, 29, said. “And I messed it up.”

What Happened in Vancouver

Maltais said she was “100%” ready for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. She was prepared to eclipse the bronze medal she won in 2006. Though diagnosed suddenly with celiac disease two months prior to the 2010 Games – forcing a dramatic dietary revamp – the native of Petite-Rivière-St-Francois, Que. was looking forward to showing Canada what she could do.

But like what had happened several times over her long career, an injury got in the way. This one, 25 minutes before the first Olympic race at Cypress. In the last practice run, Maltais crashed hard on her back. She started spitting blood. The medical staff’s initial thoughts were a collapsed lung.

“They told me they couldn’t tell where the blood was coming from,” she said. “It’s like you have a bad car crash and then you have to have the race of your life.”

Still, she thought she could come back, and strapped on her board for two qualifying heats, dragging herself to the starting gate. “I pretty much killed myself there.” Not surprisingly, she couldn’t qualify, as the crash had taken too big a physical and mental toll.

“Things happen sometimes,” added Maltais, who was ranked No. 2 in the world heading into Vancouver.


After the Games, Maltais finished her season – even snagging a bronze in the World Cup final. But then Olympic disappointment set in.

“It hit me what had happened,” she said. “You ask so many questions about yourself. Should you keep going or not? Another season, or keep going for four more years, or just quit?”

Maltais responded to the sinking depression by throwing herself in activities she loved. She took four months off, kite boarding, wakeboarding, bicycling. Month by month she felt better. What she was doing was focusing on herself.

Then thoughts went to the upcoming season. She found a Montreal-based trainer and personalized her training. Together they focused on improving her starts, quickness, and perfecting specific movements required by snowboard cross.

“By the end of summer, everything was together,” she said. “I felt healthy. I was moving great, quick. I felt different going into this season, full of energy.”

When she hit snow in September, the excitement she’s felt for so long kicked in again. After a career marked by injuries, she is now racing the best runs of her life alongside her friend, teammate and chief rival, Maëlle Ricker.

“It’s a great feeling that you finally reached that point where you expected to be after years and years.”

Maltais said she’s made no decisions about a third Olympic appearance in Sochi. Right now, she’s just enjoying the ride.