With the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics kicking off in just under a week, it's time for Aussies everywhere to reignite their passion for snowsports... or at least jump on the band wagon that rolls around every four years. Those Australians that do get behind with the Winter Olympics get to witness some of the most incredible athletic feats that rarely get the attention or recognition they deserve. And for a sunburnt country, our winter athletes are dominating on the snow. With current Aussie World Champions, and regular podium finishers, this years' Games are expected to be a big one for the Australian Olympic Team.
We've outlined a few of our top picks for Pyeongchang and when you can catch them in action (the timezone is in our favour this time round!). So set your alarms, get behind our medal hopefuls, and gear up for an entertaining few weeks of sport viewing. The dream.
Scotty James is an Australian halfpipe snowboarder from Melbourne, heading into his third Winter Olympics. Hard to believe at the young age of 23. His Olympic debut at Vancouver in 2010 saw James compete in both the slopestyle and halfpipe events at the age of 14, making him the youngest Australian winter Olympian in history, and youngest globally to qualify in the last 50 years. In the 4 years between Vancouver and Sochi in 2014, Scotty had a massive one foot growth spurt. For an elite athlete, navigating this change is a huge challenge. Scotty had to essentially teach himself to board again with a whole different centre of gravity. Stepping up to the challenge like the champion he is, James has dominated snowboarding in the last 12 months, adding X Games gold, World Cup and World Championships titles in 2017… leaving just Olympic Gold to go!
Red Bull team member Scotty is one of the hot favourites to take out the Gold at these Olympics based on his epic performance in the past year. His main challenge will come from Japanese rival Ayumu Hirano, who just this week pipped James by one point in the X Games. In what would have otherwise been a competition-winning ride, Scotty’s score of 98 was not enough to beat Hirano’s almost perfect 99. These two will battle it out early on in the competition schedule, hitting the halfpipe in the first week.
- Feb 13, 1pm – Men’s halfpipe qualifications
- Feb 14, 10:30am – Men’s halfpipe finals
ALEX ‘CHUMPY’ PULLIN
‘Chumpy’ is a two-time World Champion snowboard cross athlete, also heading into his third Winter Olympics following Vancouver and Sochi. He made history in 2011 when he became Australia’s first snowboard World Champ with his win in the snowboard cross event at the FIS world titles in Spain. His second World Title came from winning in 2013. Oh… we forgot to mention that this is on top of his nine World Cup podium finishes! Hailing from Sydney’s Northern Beaches, and often found carving up the surf just as capably as he does the powder, Chumpy is passionate about mentoring the next generation of his sport. This includes teammate turned Pyeongchang competitor Adam Lambert. One of the team’s more experienced athletes, Chumpy’s success can be chalked up to his ability to constantly seek out new training techniques to improve his performance, and coming into these next Games, he reportedly feels in the best form of his career and his results reflect this.
Chumpy is in the best form of his career, and currently holds the yellow jersey at the World Cup coming off back-to-back golds at the first of the World Cup Snowboard Cross races in Argentina last September. Chumpy has a good chance at taking out the top spot, but not only is his sport so dependent on conditions, he also has between 4-6 competitors all racing alongside him at speeds of 110km/h to contend with – he is a super skilled competitor and trains to get around spills on the track, but sometimes it’s just completely out of his control!
- Feb 15, 11am – Men’s snowboard cross seeding round
- Feb 15, 1:30pm – Men’s snowboard cross finals
Sport: Slopestyle Skiing
Russ Henshaw is an Australian slopestyle skier, heading into his second winter Olympics after finishing 8th at Sochi in 2014. Sochi was the first time his event was added to the Olympics, and finishing 8th is full credit to the incredible athlete Russ is, who competed despite two snapped ACLs! The slopestyle event involves navigating a range of obstacles downhill, including jumps up to 80ft high, so the landing can be unforgiving at the best of times. Russ joined the international circuit over twelve years ago at the age of just 15, making a name for himself when he grabbed silver at X Games and bronze at the world championships in 2011. Heading into his second Winter Olympics, Russ is ready to show the world what he can do and the word from his Red Bull camp is that Russ is eyeing off a podium finish.
- Feb 18, 11am – Men’s ski slopestyle qualifications
- Feb 18, 1:15am – Men’s ski slopestyle finals
Sport: Figure Skating
One of Australia’s youngest athletes at this year’s Games, Kailani Craine is the 19 year old figure skater chasing Olympic glory. "It's literally the only thing I've ever wanted in my life — to go to the Olympics,” Craine told ABC. Craine has four Australian titles under belt, and six international gongs heading into Pyeongchang, including a gold in her Olympic qualifying event last September.
Hailing from Newcastle, Craine began skating after attending a birthday party at the age of 8. In the 11 years that followed, her skating star has been steadily on the rising, relocating to Los Angeles in order to join the international skating community.
After her stellar qualifying result, expect Kailani to be a serious podium contender, in this Games and many more in the future.
- Feb 23, 12:00pm – Women’s Figure Skating Final