Who are Australia’s greatest-ever winter athletes? With the Winter Olympics one month away I thought I’d pose what is a difficult question.
How do you compare snowboarders to skiers and those who survived off the sniff of a panini in the 80s to millionaire athletes of the most recent generation?
Well, I’m going to give it a go. The results won’t please everyone but having been to four Games and seen most of them first hand I’m going to rate them from 10 to 1. Drum roll please …
When the Australia Day gongs were handed down I was little bit surprised to find that moguls skier Dale Begg-Smith was amongst the recipients this year, receiving a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his services to sport.
A gold medal moguls winner for Australia in 2006 at the Turin Winter Olympics he backed it up with silver four years later in Vancouver.
Those achievements are unquestioned and from all reports he has given back a fair bit of his time to fellow skiers, his mentorship no doubt helping to pave the way for the likes of Matt Graham and Britt Cox to achieve the success they have.
But – and here comes the but …
Kasete Skeen – wants to race at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
He smoked. He drank. He was 25kg overweight. He’s half-English. Skiing for Tonga at the 2018 Winter Olympics doesn’t seem like the logical next step for Kasete Skeen but the 34 year-old is going to give it a crack.
If Kasete Naufahu Skeen realises his aim of becoming an Olympian don’t expect him to oil up and get around in a traditional Tongan waist garment like Rio 2016 compatriot and Internet sensation Pita Taufatofua.
It’s not that Skeen wouldn’t proudly represent the island nation of 105,000 people – more likely he’d just freeze his nipples off. This is, after all, South Korea in winter, where temperatures drop to -10 degrees Celsius.
With Lindsay Jacobellis – a lazy ten-times X Games gold medal winner for the US. Pic: Jarryd Hughes Facebook
There’s another Jarryd who’s made it in America. He didn’t try out for the Fijian rugby sevens team though and he’s a much better chance than the Hayne Plane of winning an Olympic medal.
Forget footy for just for a moment and start thinking snowboarding.
Jarryd Hughes may not be a multi-code football star but he is an X Games winner in snowboard cross, a World Cup winner and Australian Winter Olympian.
In what was looming as an epic season after the win in Aspen, Jarryd (that’s Hughes not Hayne folks) busted his knee when testing out the site for the Korean Olympic course. The Snow Gauge caught up with him to see where things were at.
An artist’s impression of the proposed Olympic downhill course (black line) with the orange line representing the new chair.
Australia is preparing a feasibility study to host the 2026 Winter Olympics in the NSW Snowy Mountains town of Jindabyne with the unprecedented prospect of Thredbo and Perisher working together for the event.
Sources close to the Australian Olympic Committee told The Snow Gauge exclusively that it was confident a winnable bid could be mounted in the next six months.
It comes off the back of just two bidders vying for the 2022 event and no serious candidates putting their hand up for 2026.