Winter Olympian Matt Graham on the inspiration to be drawn from watching his Summer Games compatriots. By Richard Cooke.
Mogul conqueror: Matt Graham, 21, moguls skier
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There’s not a lot of snow in Gosford. Dad was a skier when he was growing up, and he eventually convinced Mum to learn how to ski. We went on our first family holiday when I was three and it kind of progressed from there. That’s kind of when I first got the taste for mogul skiing – when it really took off.
I kind of focused on it from when I was about 10 years old. And also, I guess, watching the 2006 Winter Olympics was a big turning point for me, because Dale [Begg-Smith] getting the gold and all that kind of motivated me. Set the path for me to kind of follow in his footsteps.
I’ve been involved with Dale since I was 13 – when he decided to take a couple of days out of his training and coach me, and help me out when I was just a youngster. So ever since then we’ve kind of been in contact with each other regularly via Skype and email. Even to this day I email him quite regularly.
He’s definitely one of a kind. He’s pretty inspirational in a lot of ways.
Moguls are high impact and very repetitive so it puts a lot of stress on your joints, in particular your knees and hips and back. We do a lot of off-snow management to try and prevent the injuries occurring.
The speed alone doesn’t give me adrenalin any more. In the big events and in the finals and when you’re up for a medal and whatnot you definitely get nervous. The butterflies always seem to come back but you just kind of learn to manage that as you develop.
At my level now I don’t really have any sort of fear. When it comes to a mogul course, you’re always focusing on limiting mistakes and executing your run. So, yeah, when it comes to competition you kind of… You kind of forget about any sort of anxiety and just go with it.
Dams have been part of the sport since it started. We go down there and it allows us to take away the risk of crashing and to work on specific things. Doing it on water kind of eliminates the risk of injuring yourself. Up to 40 per cent of our training is done on the water ramps.
Overseas there’s a really high-end world-class facility where you jump into a nice chlorinated pool and it has bubble systems. It’s just a lot more pleasant to jump in than the dirty dam we’re used to in Australia. No eels, no leeches…
I’m not sick of the sound of cowbells yet. When you’re skiing and you’re racing you don’t really hear anything besides maybe your own breath, the wind and just the thumping of the moguls.
The tricks are all planned before your run. I’ll be training my competition run and competition tricks day in and day out. For me it’s probably a “back full” on the top jump, which is a backflip with a 360. Tricks that I’ll do in every event each week. No matter what the course is I’ll always try to get those tricks off.
At the moment I’m working on adding an extra rotation to my top jump. To make it a back double, and then that will just be… If I can get that off this season, which is the plan at the moment, then I’ll be aligned with the highest degree of difficulty tricks on tour. So I guess that gives me an advantage and puts me in a really competitive position with the likes of world No. 1 Mikaël Kingsbury from Canada.
You’re probably out of control about 70 per cent of the time. And during that you’re just trying to make it look as easy and clean as possible. The judges are specifically looking for form breaks and they judge on different aspects of your skiing – how dynamic, and the way you turn your ski, and how stable your upper body is and all that sort of stuff. You’re basically just falling down the run and hoping to not have any form breaks.
To be honest I don’t ski with my parents too much anymore. With my schedule I’m just too busy, and when I’m finished with the training camp I usually want to go home and get away from the snow, and get back on the coast and live a normal life.
The Summer Olympics? I guess, well, I don’t know… Apparently it kind of motivates you when you get to watch fellow Aussies do well and get the medals and get all the media attention and whatnot. It kind of inspires you. I just love sport and I love watching sport, so I’ll be watching everything during Rio.
• Horseracing: Bletchingly Stakes Day
Saturday, 1st race noon (AEST), Caulfield Racecourse, Melbourne
• AFL: Collingwood v West Coast Eagles
Saturday, 4.35pm (AEST), Melbourne Cricket Ground
• NRL: North Queensland Cowboys v Melbourne Storm
Saturday, 7.30pm (AEST), 1300SMILES Stadium, Townsville
• Netball: Trans-Tasman championship final – Queensland Firebirds v NSW Swifts
Sunday, noon (AEST), Brisbane Entertainment Centre
• Motorsport: Formula 1 German Grand Prix
Sunday, 10pm (AEST), Hockenheimring, Germany
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on July 30, 2016 as "Mogul conqueror".
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