Season 2015-16 Wrap
FULL report from the Olympic Winter Institute of Australia covering all disciplines and how the OWIA athletes fared.
AUSTRALIA has continued to excel at the highest level of winter sport during 2015-2016, with a number of athletes making significant gains in establishing themselves as medal capable performers at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, Korea.
After the completion of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, the Australian sporting system underwent major change in a number of areas in response to the implementation of the Federal Government’s Australia’s Winning Edge (AWE) strategy and a new direction for Olympic sport.
National performance targets have been set via performance at an annual Benchmark Event (BME). The aim for Australia is to be a top 15 nation on the Olympic Winter Games medal tally, and to contribute to the target of 20+ World Champions annually in both summer and winter Olympic sports.
In the absence of World Championships in year two of the Olympic quadrennial, the BME focus was largely on designated World Cup events.
In total, 13 medals were won by Olympic Winter Institute of Australia (OWIA) athletes at the World Cup level, with three medals - gold, silver and bronze - also won at the X-Games in Aspen, CO, USA.
Seven Australian athletes were ranked in the top ten on the end of season World Cup standings, including three in the top three in the world.
The BME for the freestyle skiing disciplines of mogul skiing and aerial skiing was the World Cup event in Deer Valley, UT, USA.
OWIA/NSW Institute of Sport (NSWIS) mogul skier Matthew Graham had an outstanding season, taking home three World Cup medals, including the first gold medal of his career in Deer Valley. The win makes Graham only the second Australian mogul athlete to stand on the top tier of the podium at the World Cup level.
Graham finished the season ranked second in the world, the highest ranking of any Australian male winter sports athlete and was recognised for his achievements, crowned Athlete of the Year at the 2016 Australian Ski & Snowboard Awards.
Britt Cox had another strong season, qualifying for finals at every World Cup event. At Deer Valley, Cox narrowly missed out on qualifying for the top six medal final, finishing in eighth place.
Danielle Scott was the best performed athlete in the OWIA/Victorian Institute of Sport (VIS) Aerial Skiing Program, finishing the season second in the world, the highest ranking of any Australian female winter sports athlete. Scott had a number of podium performances, highlighted by a silver medal under lights in Deer Valley, UT, USA.
After having a break from competition during the previous season, Olympic silver medallist David Morris made a successful return, finishing on the podium in the first two World Cup events of the season in Beijing, China.
Samantha Wells recorded the first podium of her career, taking silver on the first day of World Cup competition in Deer Valley, after landing a new jump, full-double full, for the first time in an event.
The BME for Snowboard Cross was determined to be the end of season World Cup standings. Belle Brockhoff had a breakthrough season, finishing the year ranked third in the world, with Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin closely behind in fifth.
Brockhoff made history becoming the first Australian female to win a snowboard cross World Cup at the final event of the season in Baqueira Beret, Spain. Adding further to the significance of the win, was that teammate Chumpy Pullin, also recorded victory in the men’s event, marking the first time Australia has won both the ladies’ and men’s events at a World Cup.
Jarryd Hughes spearheaded another historic first for Australia at the X-Games in Aspen, leading a one-two finish with Chumpy Pullin closely behind in second place.
Cameron Bolton came agonisingly close to securing the first World Cup podium of his career in Montafon, Austria, placing fourth at the opening event of the season.
The BME for Snowboard Halfpipe was the World Cup held in Sapporo, Japan. Kent Callister finished the event as the best performed of the Australian contingency, placing sixth with Nathan Johnstone in tenth. Holly Crawford made it three top ten performances for Australia, finishing in eighth.
The standout performance of the season came from Scott James, who landed on the podium for the first time at the X-Games in Aspen, taking home the bronze medal.
Dual Olympic medallist Torah Bright only competed once in 2015-2016, finishing second at the Laax Open in Switzerland. An unfortunate concussion in training at the X-Games forced Torah to sit out the remaining events in the season.
Slopestyle skier Russ Henshaw was set for a big season after narrowly missing the podium in fourth place at the US Grand Prix Event/World Cup in Mammoth Mountain, CA, USA, but suffered a season ending shoulder injury shortly after.
Competing in the BME/ Olympic Test Event for snowboard slopestyle, NSWIS rider Jessica Rich finished in an encouraging eighth place in PyeongChang.
The most consistent Australian ski cross performer was Sami Kennedy-Sim. KennedySim made a strong start to the season, placing sixth in the opening World Cup in Montafon, with another three top eight semi-final results also recorded.
Anton Grimus timed his best performance of the season perfectly, finishing in ninth place at the Olympic Test Event for PyeongChang.
Australia’s leading alpine skier, Greta Small, made a successful return from ACL knee surgery and with the injury now behind her, Small is looking forward to resuming training and competing at the highest level.
WORLD CUP: Another great season was had by snowboard cross athlete Belle Brockhoff, who had a top podium finish in Spain.