Scotty James was one of the big Aussie success stories.
Scotty James was one of the big Aussie success stories.

Medals, crashes, injuries: Aussie highs and lows

THE fact Australia finished with its equal-best medal haul at a Winter Olympics speaks in part about the external factors that come into play in snow sports.

 

Lots of judged elements, crashes caused by others and a brutal injury toll can all weigh on performances.

 

On another day and before different judges, aerial skier David Morris could have taken that medal.

 

If only Belle Brockhoff hadn't had a recent knee operation - she looked in the kind of form to finish first or second in PyeongChang a year ago.

 

But Australia's tally of two silver and a bronze also speaks for the fact expectations are now higher than ever and in terms of medals this will probably finish one short of a strong result.

 

The 2010 and 2014 Games each delivered three medals and with five logged at the 2017 freestyle skiing and snowboarding world championships, four podium finishes at these Olympics looked quite achievable.

 

He may have only taken bronze but Scotty James finishes as the Australian star in PyeongChang: knowing when to give an opinion, understanding when to hold back and then going on to deliver one of the spectacles of the Games in the snowboard halfpipe.

 

Matt Graham, 23, skied well to grab silver in moguls and like James with Shaun White, was in the queue behind the greatest athlete his sport has seen in Mikael Kingsbury.

 

No shame there.

 

Snowboard cross has exceptional depth in Australia and the group was rewarded with a silver to Jarryd Hughes.

 

For all the talk about a fractured relationship with teammate Alex Pullin - and clearly there was and is one - the coaching structure works well as evidenced by having three men finishing in the top 10.

Jarryd Hughes grabbed a silver in the snowboard.
Jarryd Hughes grabbed a silver in the snowboard.

 

Adam Lambert, 20, crashed out in his first heat but good judges suggest he may ultimately may yet go on to be the best of the group.

 

But there were also disappointments.

 

The aerial skiing team - so often the bedrock of Australian winter sports performance - couldn't jag a medal.

 

It was the first time since 1998 and with Lydia Lassila's retirement, Morris no sure thing to continue and no fulltime development program in the sport, there may be more fallow Games to come.

 

Moguls skier Britt Cox, who had the most dominant season of any Australian athlete in winter sports in 2016/17 with seven wins and a world championship, just couldn't bring that form into this season and finished fifth. Jakara Anthony's fourth - a best result for the 19 year-old, suggests good things to come.

 

Elsewhere, there were hits and misses and sometimes at the same time.

 

Snowboarder Tess Coady tore her ACL in the slopestyle while teammate Jess Rich hobbled into the big air. Slopestyle skier Russ Henshaw couldn't use the stairs before his competition; Anton Grimus fractured his clavicle in ski cross.

Britt Cox couldn’t bring her good form to PyeongChang.
Britt Cox couldn’t bring her good form to PyeongChang.

 

It was situation normal in sliding sports; the investment required to make them successful looks to be a bridge too far, Australia's dalliance with a program in skeleton over some years ago.

 

Figure skating was solid if not spectacular; perhaps people misunderstanding where Harley Windsor and Ekaterina Alexandrovskaya were actually at in the senior levels of the sport.

 

Yet as world junior champions there's every suggestion they could go on to achieve a best ever Games result for Australia in years to come. The fact Windsor was Australia's first indigenous athlete was significant.

 

Cross country was again a bridge too far with no results worth speaking of in a sport dominated by Europeans.

 

There was a glimmer for Australia's otherwise moribund alpine skiing program when Greta Small finished 20th in the downhill - the country's best result in ski racing in 16 years.


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