WRAP: No luck for Aussies in SBX
24 February 2014
SNOWBOARD CROSS: One of the few constants with snowboard cross is “expect the unexpected” and that’s exactly how the men’s and women’s events unfolded.
On paper Australia’s dual World Champion Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin started the day as the gold medal favourite. His teammate, world number two Jarryd Hughes, was tipped to either be among the medals or to play a determining role in who stood on the podium after coming into the Games with great recent results.
But anybody who follows the rough and tumble sport of Snowboard Cross knows only too well that pre-event predictions can, and often do, go astray. Lady Luck can rule or ruin the day.
After Pullin breezed through the round of 32, the first of the knock out finals, it appeared that his preparation for Sochi had been brilliantly planned.
But in his quarter final, plain ol’ fashion bad luck played its trump card, setting Pullin an insurmountable challenge.
After missing the start, Pullin fought his way back to be within reach of the leaders, only to choose a line through a corner that was affected by soft snow, causing Pullin to dig in an edge of his board, which washed off much of his speed.
It was a situation that not even Pullin, one of the best race technicians in the sport, could fix, relegating him to 13th overall.
He later admitted that the slow conditions and the postponement from a day earlier due to fog had affected him.
The rainy conditions also took its toll on Hughes who ended his day in the quarters.
Hughes was near the front of the pack in his race before being knocked off balance by Germany’s Konstantin Schad, in a typical racing incident. The 18-year-old Sydney-sider ended his first Olympic Games in 17th.
“That’s boardercross,” Hughes said. “You get used to it.
“I heard him, he hit me, what are you going to do.”
Cam Bolton, the third male member of the squad, also suffered as a result of Lady Luck after advancing to the semi-finals.
Bolton was poised to be one of three athletes in his semi to progress to the medal round but he was also the victim of a racing incident.
Battered and bruised with a bloodied nose and a wrist which was later found to be broken, a courageous Bolton lined up in the consolation final only to crash again. Bolton did not finish the race but was comforted by the thought that his Olympic debut had been very impressive and a placing of 11th is something to be very proud of.
Frenchman Paul Vaultier, clinched the Gold medal with Russian Silver medallist Nikolay Olyunin giving the crowd plenty to cheer about while American Alex Deibold took Bronze.
In the women’s event two days earlier on Day 9, Aussie Belle Brockhoff looked certain to advance to the medal round before making contact with Canada's Dominique Maltais and crashing out of her semi.
The Australian, who was comfortably in the top three places after making a strong start, described the incident with the Maltais as "just part of racing" and added that she had been inspired to mount another tilt at an Olympic medal in 2018.
Brockhoff finished second in the consolation final, giving her eighth place overall.
Torah Bright in her third event of the Games was unable to back up her Halfpipe silver medal and seventh placing in Slopestyle but she definitely displayed promise in her new event. She drew Brockhoff in the quarter-final and was getting good speed and closing on her teammate in the qualifying position before she backed off to avoid crashing into her and she went down. She ended her day in 18th place. Her record breaking trifecta events complete.
The gold medal went to 20-year-old Czeck Eva Samkova, who dominated the event by setting the fastest time in the seeding session and then continued her relentless path to victory throughout the day.
The silver was clinched by Maltais, who added to the bronze she won in 2006, and French teenager Chloe Trespeuch won the bronze.