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Simmons finishes third, mistake costs Neilson gold at snowboard World Cup

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WHISTLER, B.C. (CP) - A little patience earned Erin Simmons a bronze medal while a last-minute mistake cost Drew Neilson a gold during a World Cup snowboard cross race Thursday.

Simmons, a 29-year-old from West Vancouver, didn't take any chances in the three-woman final to earn her first podium finish since a second-place result last season at Lake Placid, N.Y. "It's good to be back on the podium," said Simmons. "Unfortunately I don't usually do well here so this is very exciting."

French skiers took the other two podium positions. Julie Pomagalski won while defending world champion Karine Ruby was second.

An injury to France's Deborah Anthonioz meant Simmons was assured at least a third-place finish coming out of the gate. But she had her sights set on winning the race.

The three women went into the first corner neck-neck but then Simmons got pinched and drifted to the back of the pack.

She kept her eyes open for a passing lane on the rolling, twisting 979-metre course, but didn't have a chance to improve her position.

"I was a little patient," she said. "I wanted the whole shot but when I realized I didn't have the whole shot I just had to watch myself and make sure I didn't take anyone out and no one took me out."

A cheer went up from the crowd during the men's final when Neilson was the first boarder across the finish line. But instead of celebrating he hung his head over missing one of the last gates on the course.

"I won but I didn't," said the 31-year-old Neilson, a former X-Games snowboard cross champion. "In my head I feel good. I feel strong. I just lost a lot of money and a lot of points. This will put a fire under my ass for tomorrow."

Italy's Alberto Schiavon won the race, with American Nate Holland second and France's Paul-Henri Delerue third.

Jasey-Jay Anderson of Mont Tremblant, Que., blamed a "bonehead move" when he was trying to make a turn for his second-place finish in the consolation final.

"It was totally my fault," said Anderson, who was sixth overall in the 32-man race. "I blew it. While I was doing it I said 'You idiot. You're blowing it."'

Among other Canadians, Francois Boivin of Jonquiere, Que., finished 10th; Tom Velisek of Vernon, B.C., 18th and Ryan Hickey of North Bay, Ont., 28th.

In the women's race, Dominique Maltais, a Montreal firefighter, was ninth while Maelle Ricker of Whistler was 10th.

Schiavon finally shook off the bad luck that had stalked him at Whistler events.

He broke his left foot here two years ago during the semifinals of a snowboard cross. During last year's world championships he suffered a shoulder injury in the semifinal.

"Everything was perfect. I can't believe it," said Schiavon, who lost his memory for seven hours after a crash in Switzerland in October. "I'm healthy and super happy,"

Schiavon thought Neilson had the race wrapped up.

"He was supposed to win," said Schiavon. "He was in front and faster. In the last corner I shouted at him to take it easy but something happened to him. I couldn't believe it."

Snowboard cross is downhill skiing with attitude. It's like short-track speed skating with a dash of NASCAR thrown in.

Racers, in groups of four, hurdle down a steep course stacked with heart-racing turns and stomach-dropping jumps. There are collisions and crashes.

The top two from each race advance until the remaining four meet in the final.

The World Cup continues Friday with another snowboard cross. Halfpipe competitions will be held Saturday and Sunday.

© The Canadian Press, 2005

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