Aussies eye big ski and snowboard World Champs
7 March 2017
PYEONGCHANG 2018: With 34 medals won by 13 athletes across six different snow disciplines, this has been Australia's winter of content.
Already with the country's best return in a World Cup season, there's a significant opportunity for the good times to roll on into spring at the Freestyle Skiing and Snowboard World Championships in Sierra Nevada, Spain.
Starting on Wednesday, Australia will look to cement its burgeoning reputation in mountain sports in a key lead-up event to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea in February.
The standouts have been many this season and it's not a stretch to suggest Australia will be eyeing six or more medals - up from the four achieved in Austria two years ago.
While there's some familiar names in the medals mix such as Lydia Lassila (aerial skiing) and Alex Pullin (snowboard cross) it's been the rise of developing athletes that's impressed most.
"I think it's been the added experience under everyone's belt," said Belle Brockhoff, one of the favourites in the snowboard cross after winning two World Cup events this season.
"The sports are always progressing and so are the athletes. I know everyone on the Australian team are incredibly passionate with what they do too and work very hard to come in stronger each season."
Moguls skier Britt Cox exemplifies the benefits of extensive experience at a young age.
By 19 she'd been to two Olympics but hadn't won a World Cup up until this season; now she has seven victories, the moguls title and a favouritism for the world championship.
Two of her teammates Matt Graham and Brodie Summers are also in the medal mix.
In a team with immense depth, the women's aerial squad still holds many of the aces with three-time 2016/17 World Cup winner Lassila, aerials title runner-up Danielle Scott, defending world champion Laura Peel and Samantha Wells, a World Cup medallist from this season.
For mother of two Lassila - already exceeding all expectations in her comeback season, it's the chance to fill a rare hole in a resume that includes Olympic gold and bronze and an overall World Cup title but no medals at four world championships.
Then there's snowboarder Scotty James.
Victorious at the X Games and Olympic halfpipe in Pyeongchang, he sits on the cusp of becoming one of the most marketable faces of winter sports in the world: the jackpot if you can regularly beat snowboarding's $53 million man Shaun White.
Pullin meanwhile will be aiming for a third world championship win after a mixed World Cup season in snowboard cross.
There's also prospects with veteran ski cross racer Sami Kennedy-Sim, who picked up a second placing on the World Cup tour this season and Russ Henshaw, a regular medal contender in ski slopestyle.
AUSSIES MOST LIKELY TO REIGN IN SPAIN
Britt Cox - 7 wins, 2 thirds this World Cup season
Matt Graham - 1 win, 1 second, 2 thirds
Lydia Lassila - 3 wins
Danielle Scott - 1 win, 3 seconds
Belle Brockhoff - 2 wins, 1 second
Alex Pullin - 1 win, 1 third
Scotty James - 1 win, 1 second (+ X Games win, 2nd US Open).