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WRAP: A changing of the guard in Australian Moguls

24 February 2014

FREESTYLE – MOGULS: The Australian Mogul skiing pedestal that was once solely occupied by the great Dale Begg-Smith has been enlarged to accommodate two rising stars who showed the world in Sochi that big things could be fast approaching.

Since he captured gold at the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games and then followed up with silver in Vancouver in 2010, Dale Begg-Smith’s position at the pinnacle of Australian mogul skiing was unchallenged, even during his self-imposed absence from competition.

Even before Begg-Smith confirmed his retirement from international skiing when his Sochi campaign came to a grinding halt with an uncharacteristically low 25th place, a couple of teenagers, Britt Cox and Matt Graham, showed clearly why they deserve to replace the man they have looked up to throughout their careers.

Cox was the first of the young guns to fire a warning shot to her rivals with an incredible 5th place, eclipsing the 23rd she recorded in Vancouver as the Games youngest competitor.

In launching Australia’s Freestyle skiing campaign, the 19-year-old’s brilliant climb up the results board has enabled her to become Australia’s most successful female mogul skier of all time. 

And while it is a given that Olympians all prepare with hard work, Cox has achieved her rise by putting in the extra hard yards.

Many are constantly amazed by her diligence and commitment.

However, her performance in the first qualification session was hardly auspicious, missing automatic entry into final 1.

But in typical Cox manner, she came out fighting the following night and made it all the way through to the six woman super-final, which read like the who’s who of mogul skiing. Just about all the big names qualified.

While she fell about seven points short of a score that would have put her in the hunt for a medal, Cox signaled to the world that they’d better start looking over their shoulder.

“In mogul skiing, anything can happen especially when you’re down to that final six and the girls are just really pushing it. I could have been in there, on the podium, but I’m happy with my skiing tonight and really excited for what I can do in the future,” Cox said.

Canadian sisters Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe went 1-2, with defending Olympic Champion Hannah Kearney from the USA claiming bronze.

Cox’s teammates Nicole Parks and Taylah O’Neill both had strong Olympic debuts to progress from qualifying to final 1 where they finished 15th and 16th. 

Matt Graham, also 19, missed qualifying for the six man super-final to determine medals by an agonisingly small margin of 0.03 of a point. 

Despite the miniscule margin, like Cox, Graham knows that he is building a future at this point instead of just harvesting the fruits of a career now.

Although the future is important, so too is the present and his Sochi results show it, clearly.

He went straight through to final 1 with a strong showing in the first qualification session, by-passing the second qualification session, with a top 10 result.

In final 1 he turned up the wick and easily qualified for the 12-man final 2 but it was at this stage that he was stopped in his tracks by a whisker.

Canadian Alex Bilodeau successfully defended his Olympic crown, with his compatriot and world champion Mikael Kingsbury taking silver. Russia won its first Freestyle medal, a bronze to Alexandr Smyshlyaev.

Another of Australia’s rising stars, Brodie Summers finished impressively with a 13th place and was unlucky to miss qualifying for final 2, falling short of the cut by 0.1 of a point.

Sam Hall also put on an impressive performance in qualifying but was unable to make cut.

The Australians are already looking ahead to PyeongChang, South Korea, in 2018.

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