By Gary Anderson

January 3 - Maëlle Ricker leads the list of athletes named to the Canadian snowboard team for Sochi 2014 ©AFP/Getty ImagesDefending Olympic snowboard cross champion Maëlle Ricker has been named among the first five Canadian athletes to represent the nation in the sport at next month's Sochi 2014 Winter Games.

Ricker - the first female Canadian athlete to win Olympic gold on home soil when she claimed the title at Vancouver 2010 - made her Games debut at Nagano 1998 and is set to appear at her fourth Olympics in Sochi, having missed out on Salt Lake City 2002 due to injury.

"We definitely have an amazing group and an amazing team, and to be a part of it is great," said the 35-year-old, who was crowned 2013 world champion in Quebec last January.

"We have strong athletes in all the disciplines and I'm very honoured and excited."

She is joined by fellow snowboard cross athlete and 2013 World Cup gold medal winner Chris Robanske, who will be making his Olympic debut.

Three other athletes will also making their first appearance at a Games and all are competing in the slopestyle discipline, which is on the Olympic programme for the first time in Sochi.

Mark McMorris, who took World Championship silver in Quebec, and Sebastien Toutant will be strong medal contenders in the men's event, while 2013 world champion Spencer O'Brien will be among the gold medal favourites in the women's competition.

Mark McMorris will be among the medal favourites at Sochi 2014 as slopestyle makes its Olympic debut ©Getty ImagesMark McMorris will be among the medal favourites at Sochi 2014 as slopestyle makes its Olympic debut ©Getty Images

"It feels amazing," said 20-year-old McMorris.

"It's going to be a fun time.

"I've been preparing like a mad man and I think I'm ready.

"I've been able to have a lot of success over the last three years and consistently podium or win events.

"I'm expecting to go over there and do just that."

Ricker was among three Canadian snowboarders to medal last time out at Vancouver 2010, with four-time Olympian Jasey-Jay Anderson taking gold in the men's parallel giant slalom and Mike Robertson bagging snowboard cross silver.

The rest of the Canadian snowboard squad will be announced in Quebec on January 21.

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December 2013:
 "We want to help our athletes achieve their podium dreams" insists Canadian Sports Minister
November 2013: FIS unveils Sochi 2014 ski and snowboard cross course
August 2013: Sochi 2014 Olympic slopestyle course revealed