The King vs Mogul Matt
In the first of a series of interviews leading up to the Winter Olympics, starting on February 9, The Snow Gauge chats to moguls skier Matt Graham and talks about his rivalry with Canadian great Mikael Kingsbury.
Just how do you dethrone the king?
It’s a question that has been on the mind of Australian moguls champion Matt Graham for some time.
While Graham will head to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in February as one his country’s best medal prospects, there’s royalty in his way.
It comes in the form of Canadian Mikael Kingsbury, a six-time World Cup champion who, quite simply, is the best the sport has seen.
“He’s an incredible athlete,” says Graham. “I put him up with the greatest sportspeople of all time. He is a Roger Federer, a Le Bron James, a Michael Jordan. He has changed the sport and is on the next level.”
Graham adds that it’s Kingsbury’s consistency, skill and mental ability that sets him apart.
Oh, and in a judged sport, having won over the judges some years ago, helps a bit too.
“A bad run for him is still going to land him on the podium which helps. He has that kind of leverage to be able to make a few mistakes and get away with it a bit”.
Yet Graham is no slouch on the bumps himself, having won two World Cup events amongst 10 podium finishes. He was second overall in the 2015/16 season.
He started to see last season as the chance to steal the crown from Kingsbury – or at the very least displace it a bit – but things didn’t completely go to plan.
While there were four podiums including a win in Calgary, he finished 14th at the world championships in the Olympic discipline and admitted he couldn’t match it with Kingsbury week-in week-out, on the World Cup tour.
“I was really gunning to be up against Mick in a lot of events but I felt that I didn’t really achieve that goal. In hindsight it has definitely motivated me more to work harder this year.”
The pair get to go head-to-head on Tuesday at the Australian Championships in Perisher and are joined by the likes of last year’s World Cup runner-up Benjamin Cavet of France and regular podium finisher Phillippe Marquis of Canada in a hot field.
After that it’s on to the ABOM at Mt Buller, a conditioning block in Canberra and then water training in Switzerland.
Finland is the base for the early part of the Northern Hemisphere season, with the first World Cup event in Ruka on Dec 9.
Then there’s a half dozen more World Cups before the Winter Olympics kicks off on Feb 9 with the mens’ moguls qualification starting on the opening day.
Graham just missed the final in Sochi to finish seventh and with World Cup and World Champion teammate Britt Cox, loom as two of Australia’s best hopes in South Korea.
“Going to Sochi def benefited me a lot; giving me experience at a young age about what it was like at an Olympics,” says Graham.
“Coming off a few goods seasons I have pretty high expectations on myself, definitely bring home a medal is a goal for me.”