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Aussie medallist triumphs over bumps and slump

Sport

The king still reigns but if there's a succession plan in place, Matt Graham may just be the man for the job.

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Graham became Australia’s first medallist of the 2018 Winter Olympics when he took silver behind the sport’s undisputed leader, Mikael Kingsbury of Canada.

Beating the Quebecois was always going to be an ask – he is after all the most successful moguls skier of all time with 48 wins and six consecutive World Cup titles.

Last week Graham, 23, said he could win.

And on Monday night he skied like he believed it.

Taking smooth lines and landing deft tricks off the jumps all night, he showed enormous consistency to push through the first two finals in second and fourth.

Kingsbury offered some cause for hope – his normally sublime turns just a touch off as he eventually moved into the six-man decider as the No.2 skier behind Japan’s Daichi Hara.

Third down the 250m bumps course, Graham delivered up his best run of the night, finishing with an off-axis 1080 and fist pump that suggested against almost any other skier he was a real gold medal show.

But not against Kingsbury.

He blew everyone away with an 86.63 run, leaving Graham to admit: “No one can do it like he can.”

Hara skied last and finished in third with 82.19.

“It’s been such a long year, I just wanted to have fun and feel loose and be able to put it down where it counts,” Graham said.

“It’s a lot of hard years come to fruition.

“A whole life of hard work and it comes down to 25 seconds and one bad turn and it could all be over.

“It’s amazing.”

Like world champion Britt Cox, who missed a medal the night before, Graham wasn’t without his struggles coming into these Games.

He’d picked up four medals this season but in two of his last three World Cup starts had an 11th and 13th.

Coach Steve Desovich admitted this was no walk-up medal.

“The tide seemed to turn there once he got going … until tonight he was in a bit of a slump with both aspects – turns and jumps,” Desovich admitted.

“As the night unfolded he just pulled it together.”

Australia’s men’s campaign received a blow soon before it even began when World Cup medallist Brodie Summers failed to recover from a knee injury.

The 24-year-old lacked mobility during the warm-up for the event on Monday and was deemed at risk of further injury.

Rohan Chapman-Davies was the first Australian eliminated after finishing 12th in the repechage, followed by James Matheson in the first stage of the final.

But Graham would not be denied, claiming his country’s first moguls medal since Dale Begg-Smith’s silver at Vancouver 2010.

It’s Australia’s 13th Winter Olympic medal and sees the country’s run of reaching the podium in consecutive Games extend to seven.

– AAP

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