There’d been plenty of battles off the mountain but in the end the conditions won the war as Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin finished a disappointing 13th in the snowboard cross event at the Winter Olympics.
The Australian gold medal favourite managed to ride his way through one heat on a rain-sodden course at Rosa Khutor’s Extreme Park but failed to progress past the quarter-finals.
The two-time world champion had been caught in some traffic and attempted an inside passing move on the third turn but lost speed and ultimately any chance of moving into the next round.
“As I went into that run the snow just cracked and finally gave way and I lost a lot of speed in that turn,” Pullin said.
“This was just a straight-up war today with the conditions the way they are.”
Cam Bolton was the best-placed Australian, riding well to progress through to a semi-final before getting taken out by Italian Omar Visintin.
He competed in the small final, after sustaining a bloodied nose and a suspected broken wrist, and crashed again, finishing 11th.
Jarryd Hughes (17th) also appeared to be in good form, coming through the first heat and even grabbing his board in a trick more akin to the halfpipe, before he too was wiped out by a competitor in the quarter-final.
Frenchman Pierre Vaultier, a long-time rival of Pullin’s and the man who took him out of action in a World Cup event back in December, won the event.
Vaultier sustained an anterior cruciate ligament injury in that clash and wasn’t expected to even make the Games let alone win.
Russian Nikolay Olyunin was second with American Alex Deibold third.
It had been a difficult lead-up for the Australian snowboard squad in many respects with a rift apparent between the riders, Hughes refusing to make any comment about Pullin in the days before the event.
The problems centre on perceived funding issues.
But Pullin said that wasn’t a distraction for him and despite racing in just the one World Cup event this season, he was also more than happy with his preparation.
“I’m not worried about anything at all,” he said.
Pullin’s failure to end up on the podium may well have ended Australia’s hopes for any further medals at these Games.
Amy Sheehan may be an outside chance for a medal in the ski halfpipe but a podium finish would come as a surprise from the ski cross athletes.
So far Australia has collected two silver (Torah Bright, David Morris) and a bronze (Lydia Lassila).
It is close to expectations with Australian Olympic Committee boss John Coates saying three to four medals would be a good result for the team in Sochi.
Meanwhile, Jana Pittman and Astrid Radjenovic are in 14th place after the first two heats of the women’s bobsleigh, with two heats to come on Wednesday.
The pair managed a time of 58.62 seconds in the first run to be in 15th place, but improved on that with a 58.50 in their second effort, for a combined time of 1:57.12, a long way off the leading American pair who clocked 1:54.89.
In other Australian action on Tuesday, Deanna Lockett qualified for Friday’s quarter-finals of the ladies short track skating 1000m event after finishing first in her heat.
The 18-year-old was aided by a collision between Dutchwoman Jorien ter Mors and Canadian Marianne St-Gelais, and she was able to overtake both before passing Veronika Windisch to take first place in the heat.
Australian Pierre Boda was less fortunate, finishing in fourth place in his heat in the men’s 500m short track to be eliminated from the competition.
The Netherlands owned the podium in the men’s 10,000m speed skating, claiming a rare trifecta. Jorrit Bergsma won the event, holding off compatriots Sven Kramer and Bob De Jong.
Slovenian alpine skier Tina Maze picked up her second gold of the Games by winning the women’s giant slalom. Maze dead heated for gold with Switzerland’s Dominique Gisin in the downhill, but she had the top podium spot all to herself on Tuesday, beating Austrian Anna Fenninger and German Viktoria Rebensburg to gold.
Swede Emile Hegle Svendsen won the men’s biathlon 15km mass start, beating Frenchman Martin Fourcade in a thrilling photo finish. Czech Ondrej Moravec took bronze.
France’s Pierre Vaultier edged Russian Nikolay Olyunin and American Alex Deibold to win gold in the men’s snowboard cross.
Norway claimed gold and silver in the men’s Nordic combined individual Gundersen LH/10km, with Joergen Graabak defeating countryman Magnus Hovdal Moan. Fabian Riessle of Germany picked up bronze.
South Korea won the women’s 3000m short track relay, with the team of Ha-Ri Cho, Alang Kim, Sangjeong Kong, Seung-Hi Park and Suk Hee Shim too strong for silver medallists Canada and Italy, which was third.
And American David Wise won the first ever men’s ski halfpipe gold, defying difficult conditions to beat Canada’s Mike Riddle and Frenchman Kevin Rolland in the event’s Olympic debut.