An electric performance by Torah Bright has overshadowed a strong return to competition by fellow Olympic gold medallist Dale Begg-Smith in a solid day for Australian winter athletes less than two months out from the Sochi Games.
Bright, who is criss-crossing the northern hemisphere as she attempts to qualify in three snowboard disciplines at the Winter Olympics, was back to her best in the halfpipe, winning the Dew Tour superpipe event in Breckenridge, Colorado.
The 26-year-old Vancouver Games gold medallist took out the pro tour event – which usually has much stronger competition than World Cup fixtures – with her first run in which she scored 95.4.
It was good enough for a win in a stacked field which included 2002 Games gold medallist Kelly Clark and 2006 runner-up Gretchen Bleiler.
Bright is a lock for halfpipe and slopestyle at the Games but is also seeking to qualify in snowboard cross.
Begg-Smith, meanwhile, returned to moguls competition for the first time in three years and showed a tilt at becoming Australia’s first three-time Winter Olympic medallist might not be such a stretch.
The 28-year-old was fifth in the opening World Cup of the season in Ruka, Finland.
“It was probably a little higher (the finish) than I was expecting having not skied for three years,” said Begg-Smith, who admitted he was considering not even competing this weekend.
“These are not competitions I’m really focused on. Assuming everything goes well, the Olympics will be the focus.
“I dont have expectations. I try to focus on technical things we work on. We always take it day by day. Each competition is taken as they come. I always worked on technical things that I wanted to work on and the results will take care of themselves.”
Begg-Smith wasn’t even the best-placed Australian with Matt Graham finishing fourth.
Britteny Cox was also fourth in the women’s event after qualifying for the finals in first place.
Also at the Dew Tour event, Scotty James was an impressive fifth in the men’s superpipe.
Earlier in the week, slopestyle skier Russ Henshaw qualified second for Monday’s (AEDT) finals.
Meanwhile it was a tough season start for defending Games aerials champion Lydia Lassila.
The three-time Winter Olympian broke a ski on landing in qualifying, failing to progress to the finals.
“Pretty appalling start to my season today,” she tweeted.
David Morris was the best of the Australians in China, finishing fifth, while Laura Peel was sixth in the women’s event.