Australia has a strong history in freestyle skiing, having won medals at every Games since Salt Lake City 2002.
Women’s aerials have been the particular strength throughout this time. At Salt Lake City in 2002, Alisa Camplin from Melbourne scored a total of 193.47 point in the final to become the Olympic aerials champion and also Australia’s first skiing gold medallist. The Salt Lake Games also saw tragedy when, in the week before the competition, Jacqui Cooper shattered her knee in training. It also saw the arrival of a young Lydia Lassila (then Ierodiaconou) who placed eighth in the final.
Four years later in Torino, Camplin on the comeback from serious injury produced another sensational performance to take bronze. Cooper who had broken the world record in the preliminaries finished eighth and this time it was tragedy for Lassila, who shattered her knee in the preliminary rounds while in podium form.
Lassila made a truly fairytale comeback at Vancouver 2010. Four years of hard work after the knee injury that ended her Torino campaign, she landed two outstanding jumps in heavy fog at the final on Cypress Mountain, to win with an Olympic record total score of 214.74. Jacqui Cooper finished in fifth place in her fourth Olympic Games.
Four years later and Lassila was on the podium again having won bronze but it was silver medallist David Morris who secured Australia’s best result at Sochi 2014. With a knack for pulling out his best when it matters most, Morris landed his jump in the four-man final before both Chinese competitors couldn’t stick theirs to ensure Morris claimed the first men’s Aerials medal for Australia at an Olympic Games.
Although an Aussie wasn’t on the aerials podium at PyeongChang, dual Olympian Laura Peel recorded Australia’s best result with 5th place, while Lydia Lassila created history as the first Australian female to compete in five Winter Olympic Games, placing 14th.
In mogul skiing, Australia has been strongly represented by the men. The four-time Olympian, Adrian Costa, placed 14th at both the Albertville 1992 and Lillehammer 1994 Games. Nick Cleaver’s 11th place at Albertville was the best Aussie result until Dale Begg-Smith crushed the opposition at Torino to become Australia’s third Winter Olympic gold medallist. Begg-Smith, who suffered a serious knee injury in 2009, returned to his birth town of Vancouver to attempt to defend his title at the 2010 Games. Begg-Smith finished with a final score of 26.58 to snag the silver medal, just behind local hero Alexandre Bilodeau on a score of 26.75.
Australia took its first full eight-skier mogul contingent to PyeongChang 2018. Dual Olympian Matt Graham added to Australia’s mogul success in Korea, winning silver behind the world’s most successful mogul skier, Canadian Mikael Kingsbury. Australia secured its best Olympic result in the women’s competition with debutant Jakara Anthony finishing 4th and triple Olympian Britt Cox in fifth.
Ski cross made its Olympic debut at Vancouver with a strong showing by Australian skiers. Scott Kneller placed seventh in the men’s event, and Jenny Owens and Katya Crema both progressed to the quarter-finals in the women’s. Dual Olympian Sami Kennedy-Sim improved on her Sochi 2014 result by 20 places at PyeongChang 2018, finishing in 8th place.
Ski Slopestyle made its Olympic debut at Sochi 2014. 23-year-old Russ Henshaw was Australia’s only slopestyle athlete when the discipline made its debut on the Russian Slopes. Although he entered the Games under an injury cloud, Henshaw easily qualified for the finals where he finished in eighth place with a score of 80.40. Another injury put Henshaw’s second Games appearance in doubt just before PyeongChang 2018, however he received medical clearance in time to compete in the qualification round where he finished 19th.