Aussie team gets off to a fly­ing start

The Weekend Australian - - FRONT PAGE - JACQUELIN MAG­NAY

Aus­tralia’s two Olympic moguls con­tenders Britt Cox and Matt Gra­ham scrapped through to the Olympic fi­nals af­ter yes­ter­day’s qual­i­fy­ing run, but have been put on no­tice they will have to ski faster to have a crack at the medals.

Both skiers had tense waits at the bot­tom of the hill at Phoenix Snow Park in yes­ter­day’s qual­i­fy­ing rounds to con­firm au­to­matic fi­nals po­si­tion.

The top 10 went straight through to the women’s fi­nal to­mor­row and the men’s fi­nal on Mon­day, although those that missed out will have another chance in the repechage round.

Cox, one of the first com­peti­tors on the Olympic course, ended up in sixth spot. She re­mains one of Aus­tralia’s best hopes for gold in a Win­ter Olympic team rated our best ever.

Gra­ham just squeezed into his fi­nals spot with a nerve-rack­ing ninth-placed fin­ish.

“Any­thing can hap­pen in the fi­nal,’’ Gra­ham said.

But of con­cern to the Aus­tralian moguls coaches was that Gra­ham had looked to have been marked down by the judges for his turns af­ter com­plet­ing a clean run.

“It’s a judged sport, I will just look and see what went wrong,’’ Gra­ham said. “I came off a pretty good train­ing day yes­ter­day, I was quite happy with how I was ski­ing and I just came out and wanted to repli­cate what I was do­ing.

“I def­i­nitely feel a lot more con- fi­dent this time around than four years ago, I’m older and wiser and know the com­pe­ti­tion a lot more now.”

Cox, 23, said the course “was rip­ping’’ and she had a lot of fun, es­pe­cially be­ing one of the first to com­pete in the first Olympic event, held even be­fore the open­ing cer­e­mony.

But she has noted the cleaner and quicker turns of the top two qual­i­fiers, Perrine La­font of France and Andi Naude of Canada and said there was work on her tech­nique to clean up dur­ing a train­ing run on the week­end. Her over­all time was slightly slower than some of her higher-ranked com­peti­tors, so she will have to trade off some style on the turns to ski more ag­gres­sively.

“I just watched my run with my coach and there’s def­i­nitely some things I want to fix up. I’m re­ally ex­cited to get back on the course and train, and ramp it up a lit­tle bit for the fi­nals.”

She said she was try­ing to treat the Olympic com­pe­ti­tion as she would any other world cup, ex­cept that the Aus­tralian team had plenty of sup­plies of Vegemite to make her feel at home.

“It’s a phys­i­cal warm-up, get­ting men­tally fired up but stay­ing loose and re­laxed and con­fi­dent and mak­ing sure I’m en­joy­ing my­self. And of­ten when I click into my skis, that feel­ing of en­joy­ment al­ways comes back to me.”

Other Aus­tralians Madii Him­bury, 24, Jakarta An­thony, 19, and Clau­dia Gueli, 21, fin­ished mid­field in 14th to 16th po­si­tions and have shown they will be in a con­tention to qualify in the next 10 po­si­tions avail­able in the repechage rounds. In the men’s com­pe­ti­tion, Ro­han Chap­man-Davies was 17th and James Mathe­son 23rd.

The news wasn’t good for his team­mate Brodie Sum­mers, who with­drew just min­utes be­fore the com­pe­ti­tion started, hav­ing ex­pe­ri­enced sharp pain in his knee while warm­ing up. Sum­mers in­jured his an­te­rior cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment last Septem­ber, but be­fore this set­back was con­fi­dent his knee was re­spond­ing well to re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.

AP

Aus­tralian moguls skier Matt Gra­ham gets air­borne dur­ing his qual­i­fy­ing run to open the PyeongChang Win­ter Olympics at Phoenix Snow Park yes­ter­day

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