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Aussie snowboarders stomp it in PyeongChang

20 February 2018

SNOWBOARD: With two medals and seven top-15 performances from a small contingent of 12 athletes, Australian snowboarders have produced outstanding results at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games.

A strong team of riders qualified to compete in South Korea, and the expectations were high.

However, the athletes focused on the task at hand, smiled at the opportunity and showed that hallmark Australian resilience and determination to get the job done.

The best result came from boardercross rider Jarryd Hughes who, in a field of 40 athletes, snatched the silver medal in the final. It was Australia’s first medal in boardercross in history.

Hughes, 22, finished just behind Sochi 2014 gold medallist and reigning World Champion Pierre Vaultier (France).

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Performance Manager and Vancouver 2010 Olympian Ramone Cooper said it was a gutsy performance by Hughes, who won the Winter X Games boardercross gold medal in 2016 and finished first at the recent World Cup at Montafon, Austria.

”Jarryd came into the event full of confidence and focus,” he said.

“He raced well all day and it was great to see the depth of talent in Australian Snowboard Cross show through with three athletes in the top ten.”

Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin joined Hughes in the six-rider Big Final and finished sixth after a crash in the closing stages of the race. Teammate Cam Bolton finished 10th overall after placing fourth in the Small Final (competitors who finished in seventh to 12th place) despite injuring his arm in the previous round. Adam Lambert crashed in his 1/8 heat, ruling him out of the quarterfinal round.

A other snowboard medal came from men’s halfpipe young gun and 2018 Australian flagbearer Scotty James, with bronze in an incredibly competitive final.

James is a two-time World Champion and X Games gold medalist. The competition at the halfpipe on Day 5 of the PyeongChang Games was hot and the athletes themselves said the three-run final produced one of the best snowboard halfpipe battles of all time.

The gold medal went to American veteran Shaun White with a score of 97.75, and Japan’s Ayumu Hirano claimed silver with his second run of 95.25.

James scored 92.00 on his flawless opening run, but had minor stumbles in his two follow up attempts.

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“Scotty ran an outstanding PyeongChang campaign, which really began at the closing of Sochi 2014,” Cooper said.

“To put himself in gold medal contention, along with favorites White and Hirano in what was the highest level of snowboard halfpipe competition the sport has seen, is a testament to how far Scotty has come over the past 4 years.

“To ride away with the bronze medal is a fantastic achievement and one that will continue to light the fire in his Beijing 2022 preparations.”

Fellow Australian halfpipe riders Kent Callister and Emily Arthur also made the final of their respective events; Callister finished 12th in the men’s final while Arthur finished 11th.

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Riders Nate Johnstone and Holly Crawford also competed in the qualification rounds but did not progress to the final. Windy conditions made the event unpredictable, but Crawford and Johnstone said the level of competition was outstanding and the pipe was one of the best they had ever ridden.

Australia’s final three snowboarders are warrior women: Belle Brockhoff (Snowboard Cross), Jess Rich (Big Air) and Tess Coady (Snowboard Slopestyle and Big Air).

Coady, 17, was the first Australian to line up for competition in PyeongChang but in a devastating turn of events ruptured her ACL in training just an hour before the qualification round of the slopestyle event.

The two time Junior World Champion in both Slopestyle and Big Air was to be Australia’s youngest 2018 Winter Olympian.

“Tess had an outstanding preparation leading into the women’s Slopestyle Competition,” Cooper said.

“Tess’ style, creativity and flow are amongst the best in the field. Tess has a bright future ahead of her and whilst unfortunately she was unable to compete here in PyeongChang, the experience she was exposed to will bode well for her Beijing 2022 preparations.”

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Brockhoff and Rich both competed in South Korea with existing knee injuries. Brockhoff was able to manage her pain and proceed to the Small Final of the women’s boardercross event to finish 11th overall.

Rich narrowly missed out on a final berth in the Olympic debut of Big Air but was thrilled to put down two clean runs in the qualification round after a month of doubt and gym-based training.

“It’s a testament to Jess and the support staff around her that she was able to line up in the first ever Women’s Olympic Big Air competition,” Cooper said.

“Whilst Jess missed the finals by one spot, she was able to execute the jump she had been planning and most importantly, land well in both qualification jumps.

“In what was the highest level Women’s Big Air competition to date, Jess was in the midst with her (off the toes) frontside 720.”

Candice Keller
olympics.com.au

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