Canadian snowboarder Dominique Maltais has the skill to capture gold at the 2014 Winter Olympics. She just needs a bit of (good) luck. Since her first foray into the Olympics—a bronze medal in snowboard cross at the 2006 Games in Turin, Italy— Maltais has had to overcome a series of obstacles.
First, she shredded her ACL in 2007. Then, two months before she was to compete in the 2010 Games in Vancouver, she was diagnosed with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes painful reactions when an affected person consumes gluten, a protein found in wheat and other common grains. The condition required Maltais to totally overhaul her diet. Finally, less than an hour before qualifying runs at the 2010 Games, Maltais crashed hard and injured herself, hampering her performance so badly that she was unable to qualify for the elimination heats.
But the resilient boarder has been on an absolute tear since that disappointment. She captured a bronze at the 2011 Snowboarding World Championships, a gold at the 2012 Winter X-Games and two wins at the Snowboard Cross Crystal Globe Championships (2011-2012, 2012-2013).
Heading into the Sochi games, Maltais tweaked her training to maximize her performance on the slopes. “I have totally changed my mentality since Vancouver,” she says. “I don’t train to be healthy, I train to be a better snowboarder. Everything I’m doing, every aspect, technical, physical, it’s all to perform on my board. Our training is [designed] to build more muscle.”
Her modified diet (still gluten free) has her feeling light on her feet. “I totally changed my diet, [which] totally changed my life,” Maltais says. “I feel so much better. I was pushing a lot at the gym five or six years ago, but the improvement was very little. With my new diet, I have so much more energy and my improvements are much bigger. It’s totally changed my entire life.”
Of course, Maltais still needs to show up in Sochi. But if her recent successes foreshadow things to come, the rest of her snowboard cross competitors need to watch out. “I want to be perfect in every aspect [of snowboarding],” Maltais says.