Snowboarder Tess Coady has claimed the biggest win of her career to rocket into Olympic medal contention while curlers Tahli Gill and Dean Hewitt created Australian sporting history when officially named in the squad for next month’s Winter Games in Beijing.
Coady recorded the second World Cup victory of her career with an impressive gold-medal performance in the slopestyle event at the Laax Open in Switzerland.
“It feels so good to take the win today,” said the 21-year-old who sealed the triumph with a spectacular frontside double 1080 on the last jump.
“I really just wanted to land my runs, I think that’s all you can ask for, so to achieve that today was just a win in itself for me.
“The frontside 1080 is a new one for me; I learnt it a few months ago at Prime Parks in Stubai.
“I really wanted to bring it out today so super stoked I was able to do that.”
Matt Cox and teen sensation Valentino Guseli also recorded personal best finishes on a great day for the Australian snowboarding squad.
Cox was seventh in the men’s slopestyle and 16-year-old Guseli was fifth in a men’s halfpipe event where evergreen three-time Olympic champion Shaun White claimed his first podium finish since the 2018 Pyeongchang Games.
But Australia’s 2018 Olympic halfpipe bronze medallist Scotty James was a disappointing 11th in his first event of the season after being unable to put down two clean runs in the final.
Next stop, Aspen
Coady, James and Guseli will now head to Aspen for next weekend’s X-Games.
Gill, 22, and Hewitt, 27, secured their mixed doubles quota in an undefeated run at the final Olympic curling qualification tournament in the Netherlands in December.
A team including Hewitt’s father Stephen competed when curling was a demonstration sport at the 1992 Albertville Games, but this will be the first time Australia has been involved with Olympic medals on the line.
“It feels incredible and surreal still even now,” Gill said from the pair’s training base in Canada, after she and Hewitt were the first Australians officially included in a Games squad set to total approximately 45 athletes.
“This has been a lifelong dream for both of us, and for it to finally be coming true is so unreal.
“When we hit that winning shot, I think I was mostly in shock, because we have worked so hard for so long on this one goal and now we’ve actually achieved it.”
The curling qualification round begins in Beijing on Feburary 2, two days before the opening ceremony.
Australian sledder Bree Walker just missed out on a podium place at the finish of the Monobob World Series in St Moritz on Saturday.
After five straight top-three results, the consistent 29-year-old from Melbourne had a disappointing morning in the Series’ final event in Switzerland, managing to finish only seventh over the two runs.
Walker’s worst result of the season in the individual bobsleigh event saw her slip from second place overall to fifth in the final standings.