Aus­tralian Medal Tri­fecta

Alpine News - - News - By Steve Cuff

AUS­TRALIA con­tin­ued to add to their over­all Win­ter Olympic medal tally with a tri­fecta of medals at the PyeongChang 2018 games in South Korea.

Start­ing with Matt Gra­ham win­ning a sil­ver medal in the men’s moguls, Aus­tralia cel­e­brated a whirl­wind three days at the Phoenix Park venue with snow­board­ers Scotty James and Jar­ryd Hughes adding to the medal count.

Matt Gra­ham started his sec­ond Olympic cam­paign strongly but lacked some of the fi­nesse if he was to grace the podium. The steep dif­fi­cult course was chal­leng­ing for most of the skiers in train­ing, ex­cept for the Cana­dian gold medal win­ner, Mikael Kings­bury, who skied bril­liantly from the out­set.

Gra­ham qual­i­fied in 9th po­si­tion with a score of 77.28, but with grad­ual im­prove­ment each day there was ev­ery hope he could de­liver when re­quired.

He upped the ante in his ski­ing to reach the su­per fi­nal, where the top six best skiers would ski for podium glory. When he crossed the line fist pump­ing he knew he had just skied the run of his life post­ing a score of 82.57. He would have to wait for three more skiers be­fore he re­alised his dream of win­ning a Win­ter Olympic sil­ver medal. Kings­bury eas­ily won gold with 86.63 and Ja­pan’s Daichi Hara won bronze with 82.19.

“I’m over the moon, it still hasn’t sunk in but I can’t wait to cel­e­brate. It was amaz­ing putting down that fi­nal run which was my best run of the night. I knew when I saw the score I was go­ing to be on the podium,” said Gra­ham.

“I came out to­day and, ac­tu­ally the first train­ing ses­sion be­fore the qual­i­fi­ca­tion ses­sion didn’t ex­actly go as I would’ve liked, maybe I just felt a lit­tle bit stiff and then went in­side, took a breather and came out fir­ing. I was just hav­ing fun and when I’m hav­ing fun I’m ski­ing the best.”

Aus­tralian flag bearer and triple Olympian Scotty James was al­ways ex­pected to podium in the men’s half­pipe, it was more what colour medal and how tough the bat­tle would be with arch ri­vals Shaun White and Ja­pan’s Ayumu Hi­rano. The three rid­ers have dom­i­nated the sport set­ting up what peo­ple were de­scrib­ing as the great­est snow­board event in his­tory.

James set a high qual­i­fy­ing score of 96.75 only to be edged out by White with 98.50 and Hi­rano in third po­si­tion with 95.25. Aus­tralian Kent Cal­lis­ter also squeezed into the fi­nal in 12th po­si­tion and would even­tu­ally fin­ish 10th.

The scene was set for the highly an­tic­i­pated fi­nal and Hi­rano set the early pace with a 95.25 in his sec­ond run. Rid­ers have three runs to bet­ter their score and James had al­ready set a 92.00 and would need to stomp it all in his fi­nal run to win.

James was look­ing good un­til he went down on a frontside 1080 leav­ing him a guar­an­teed bronze. In an ex­cit­ing fin­ish White would nail his last run scor­ing 97.75, earn his third gold medal in four Olympics and add to his leg­endary sta­tus.

“It was an amaz­ing day and I came out ex­pect­ing a re­ally good fight and that’s ex­actly what it was,” said James.

“I just wanted to come out and ride re­ally well, I only get one time ev­ery four years to do so in front of my coun­try and that’s what I did so I’m re­ally grate­ful for that. I’ve had a crazy cou­ple of sea­sons stand­ing on a lot of podi­ums but this one is very sen­ti­men­tal, and I get to fly the Aus­tralian flag as high as I can.”

Aus­tralia had four com­peti­tors in the snow­board cross event and all had le­git­i­mate claims for podium suc­cess, but when the snow spray set­tled from a drama and ac­tion-packed day, dual Olympian Jar­ryd Hughes would stand proud on the podium to re­ceive his sil­ver medal.

All Aussie rid­ers looked good in qual­i­fi­ca­tion, but it would be tough to progress through each heat and the pres­sure was on. Adam Lam­bert was elim­i­nated early, but Cam Bolton, Alex Pullin and Hughes all looked fast and kept pro­gress­ing through the rounds.

It was ex­cit­ing times for Aus­tralia as all three rid­ers even­tu­ally made the same semi fi­nals. Bolton would end up crash­ing and in­jur­ing his shoul­der, but he re­turned for the small fi­nal and fin­ished 10th.

In the fi­nal Pullin would crash from a big air onto a flat land­ing and fin­ish 6th. Hughes would bat­tle it out with Olympic de­fend­ing cham­pion, French­man Pierre Vaultier and cap­ture his sil­ver medal and was ec­static as he crossed the line.

Hughes who has had five knee op­er­a­tions thanked his fam­ily and sup­port crew and added, “I’ve been very for­tu­nate to work with a lot of great peo­ple around the Olympics and the last few days I’ve been sit­ting there chat­ting with Alyce Bur­nett who’s a kayak­ing Olympian and we’ve been able to chat about stuff and just kind of get my mind off it and not be too fo­cussed so it’s been re­ally cool.”

Hughes capped off a great games by at­tend­ing most events to sup­port other ath­letes and was cho­sen to carry the flag in the clos­ing cer­e­mony.

Scotty James wins a bronze medal in snow­board half­pipe.

Matt Gra­ham is ec­static just af­ter win­ning a sil­ver medal in the men’s

Pho­tos: Steve Cuff & Sue Ward.

Jar­ryd Hughes crosses the fin­ish line and cel­e­brates win­ning a sil­ver medal in snow­board cross.

David Mor­ris could well feel hard done by the judges scores on not reach­ing the sec­ond round of the fi­nal, but he ac­cepted the de­ci­sion grace­fully and placed 10th.

Jar­ryd Hughes (sil­ver) and Scotty James (bronze) get to­gether to show off their re­spec­tive medals.

Harry Laid­law was ski­ing nicely in the gi­ant slalom first run un­til he missed a gate near the fin­ish and crashed out.

Ly­dia Las­sila placed 14th and re­tired from in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion af­ter PyeongChang. She rep­re­sented Aus­tralia in five Win­ter Olympics win­ning gold in Van­cou­ver 2010 and bronze in Sochi 2014.

Speed skater Deanna Lock­ett showed good pace in her heat, tak­ing the lead at one point in the 1000m but even­tu­ally fin­ished third and did not progress to fi­nal.

Mt Buller’s An­ton Grimus in­jured his shoul­der in a seed­ing run crash, fin­ished fourth in his round of 32 heat and missed out reach­ing the quar­ter fi­nals.

Jakara An­thony proved the sur­prise pack­age of the games for the Aus­tralians with a sen­sa­tional 4th place in the ladies moguls.

Alex Pullin (2nd from left) leads one the heats with Cameron Bolton far right. Pullin would make the fi­nal and fin­ished 6th and Bolton 10th over­all.

All pho­tos by Steve Cuff

Phil Belling­ham rounds a down­hill bend in the 15km free cross coun­try event.

Britt Cox would make the su­per fi­nal top six but when she needed her best run it was not there, even­tu­ally fin­ish­ing 5th in her third Win­ter Olympics.

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