Australian Medal Trifecta
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
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.
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.