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Maelle Ricker still plans to compete in Sochi despite surgery for broken arm

VAIL, Colo. - Maelle Ricker plans to defend her snowboard cross title at the Sochi Olympics despite undergoing surgery this week to repair a compound fracture in her left arm.

Canada Snowboard says the West Vancouver, B.C., native had the surgery Tuesday in Vail, Colo., after X-rays showed a more serious injury than initially expected.

Ricker suffered the injury in a training accident on Tuesday.

She is currently in a half cast and plans to return to Squamish, B.C., to rehab before the Olympics, which open in a week.

She is scheduled to leave with the Canadian team on Feb. 8.

The snowboard cross competition is scheduled for Feb. 16.

Dr. Jim Bovard, the medical director for the Canadian team, said the "surgery couldn't have gone any better and we're extremely pleased with the outcome."

"My goal is to be ready for the start gate in Sochi but I'll definitely hate pulling out of it," Ricker said, referring to the handle bars that snowboard cross athletes grip to pull themselves from the gate. "I've had a lot of injuries in my career and it's important to stay positive and focus on the privilege of competing for Canada at the Olympics."

If Ricker isn't able to make it to the start line, Carle Brenneman of Whistler, B.C., will replace her.

The 35-year-old Ricker became the first Canadian woman to win Olympic gold on home soil at the 2010 Vancouver Games.

She made her Olympic debut in 1998 on Canada's halfpipe team at Nagano, Japan.

Ricker returned to the Games in 2006 at Turin, Italy, with the snowboard cross team. But she crashed and had to be airlifted to hospital.

Four years later she made up for the disappointment in Italy with a gold medal in Vancouver.

"Our coaches and medical team will continue to work with the Canadian Olympic Committee to do everything we can to support Maelle and make sure that she goes to the start gate on Feb. 16 with competition confidence," said Steven Hills, executive director of Canada Snowboard. "We know that Canada will be cheering her on."

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