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Australia made for moguls success

7 February 2018

MOGULS: For some it’s been a meteoric rise into the global spotlight for Australia’s moguls athletes. For others, it’s been 30 years in the making.

With a reigning World Champion, World Cup winners and multiple World Cup medallists among the current cohort competing for Australia at PyeongChang 2018, it seems it is a golden era for moguls Down Under.

Yet for Olympic Winter Institute of Australia chief executive Geoff Lipshut, it is a long-awaited prophecy fulfilled.

“(Moguls) has been one of the sports that we’ve concentrated on for a long time… given our mountain areas in our country where we tend to have shorter, steeper pitches and the snow is a bit softer, we’ve always had moguls courses,” Lipshut said.

“Back in the days when I was skiing we actually didn’t have man-made moguls, they were just skier-made moguls so it was always a natural thing for us.”

However, there have been two key turning points for the sport in terms of developing Australian talent and generating local interest.

The first: the introduction and rapid growth of the New South Wales Institute of Sport winter sports program. Delivered in partnership with the Olympic Winter Institute of Australia (OWIA) and Ski and Snowboard Australia, the NSWIS program is the training ground for more than half of Australia’s 51-strong PyeongChang 2018 team.

The second: Dale Begg Smith.

Begg Smith is a three-time Winter Olympian and Australia’s third athlete to claim gold at a Winter Games (doing so at Torino 2006). He would go on to claim silver at the 2010 Vancouver Games to cement his place as a national hero.

“Dale’s left a huge mark on Australian winter sports, being our equal most successful athlete thanks to being a gold medal winner and silver medal winner and I know some of these athletes have actually been lucky enough to actually ski with Dale,” Lipshut said.

“And I think seeing Australia win the gold medal, and be an Olympic Champion, has been special and I think it opens up opportunities for other Australian athletes who are sitting here trying to replicate that.”

Still, with the scene set for a successful Winter Olympic campaign at PyeongChang 2018, there is one thing standing in the way of Australia’s Matt Graham, Brodie Summers, James Matheson and Rohan Chapman-Davies.

He’s known as ‘the most accomplished moguls-skier of all time’ and his name is Mikael Kingsbury.

The 25-year-old Canadian freestyle skier won Olympic silver in Sochi 2014, but his reign over the sport is undeniable. With two World Championship titles (moguls in 2013, and double moguls in 2015) and no less than 48 World Cup gold medals in his trophy cabinet, Kingsbury is going to be determined to add Olympic gold to his collection.

Still, the green and gold warriors are equally focused on making their own bid for a place atop the podium come Monday 12 February, 2018.

“It’s a tough challenge, Mikael is an exceptional athlete he’s ultra consistent and that’s what makes him so great, that he’s able to put runs down day in day out that are really high quality and a bad run for him is second or third place which not many people can say,” Graham said.

“But for us he’s beatable, I know I can beat him, a bunch of other guys can beat him so really, since he’s been on tour seven years ago he’s set the standard really high and it’s felt a bit like a cat and mouse race, we’re all just trying to chase him down.

“But I have confidence in my ability and I know I can beat him but at the end of the day it’s going to come down to that medal round and how you perform.”

Despite the fierce competition, Summers says the moguls community is quite close knit.

He said that for most of the athletes they are travelling to and competing in the same places for the majority of the year, so they often shared some light-hearted chat on the course in the days leading up to competition.

“In mogul sking there’s a lot of banter between everyone we like to keep it light and like to keep it friendly and that’s just the way we operate things and last night (at training) was just business as usual and everyone was out there getting to know the course and having fun at the same time,” Summers said.

For women’s World Champion Britt Cox, the motivation and chatter often comes from closer to home.

She said that within the Australian freestyle skiing team itself there was a healthy rivalry, but one that celebrates everyone’s achievements.

“I think for us it’s not just at the Olympic Games but throughout the entire World Cup season, we’re always keeping track of the other teams and what their performances and results have been throughout the season,” Cox said.

“And we kind of use that as motivation; we see there’s an event where aerials get some great results and we think ‘we want to up them a the next event’ and it’s just kind of a fun challenge throughout the season and hopefully we can carry that vibe through the games as well.”

Moguls qualification will be held on Day 0 (February 9), with Women's finals on Day 2 and Men's finals on Day 3 (February 10-11).

Candice Keller

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