WHEN American kid Red Gerard won the snowboard slopestyle event at these Olympics much was made of his backyard set up in Colorado, with a full training zone out the back door.
Try being an Aussie kid, like Matt Graham was – 14 hours in a car every weekend through winter, before you even saw the snow.
Graham won Australia’s first medal of the 2018 Olympics on Monday, claiming silver in the men’s moguls, and his story will resonate in the tiny Australian snow sports community.
After a wild night of riding, it took a peerless run by six-time World Cup champion Mikael Kingsbury of Canada, to unseat Graham who briefly held top spot.
The world No.3 pumped his fist after passing the line before being awarded 82.57 points in the medal round, 4.06 behind Kingsbury who was second-last to make his final run.
Top seed Daichi Hara of Japan was third with 82.19 in the six-man final round.
The Gosford, NSW 23-year-old was seventh four years ago and survived a night of high tension that saw several big name riders, including world champion Ikuma Horishima, crash out in a session full of wild runs.
“A whole life of hard work and it comes own to 25 seconds – one bad turn and you can be out of it,” said Graham. “It was really challenging. I was watching them go down and was thinking put it down, keep it smooth.
“I was just having fun I was feeling loose. I was skiing a different line to most and it stayed nice.
“A lot of hard years have come to fruition tonight.”
He’s not kidding. Growing up in Gosford, Graham started out wanting to be an Olympic sailor. The snow bug got him early though and he joined the Perisher Winter Sports Club program as an eight year old.
That meant a seven hour drive each way from his home and his parents would drive him down on Friday after school and home late Sunday night every winter weekend.
Sailor? There was much water, so close to home, but snow won out.
Asked if he was an emotional guy by the Seven hosts, Graham flashed a huge grin.
“Nah, blue steel mate, blue steel,” a reference to comedian Ben Stiller’s Zoolander character.
“there defiinitely won’t be tears. I can’t remember the last time I cried. I’ll enjoy it. I can’t wait to get that thing around my neck.”
Graham paid tribute to his mate Kingsbury for “pushing me so many times over my career.”
“I put down a run I couldn’t make too many mistakes and he put down the run that shows he’s the greatest in the sport.”
The silver added to Australia’s great history in this event. Dale Begg-Smith, who has iinspired Graham through his career, won gold in 2006 and silver in 2010.
It was Australia’s 13th Winter Olympic medal and 4th silver added to five golds and four bronze.
Teammate James Matheson survived a brutal qualification run to join Graham in the final 20 but finished 14th in the first Final.
He was stoked with his performance that came in front of some hardy friends. They stipped off their tops to cheer on their mate despite minus 11 temperatures.
Australia’s women Britt Cox (5th) and Jakara Anthony (4th) narrowly missed medals in a thrilling women’s event.
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