The Aspen 2021 FIS Snowboard and Freeski World Championships will include slopestyle, halfpipe and big air events for both Snowboard and Freeski. The live streaming of the event will be available to the Australian audience online at www.snow.org.au/live.
The World Cup season for both disciplines has been unlike any other, with many World Cup events cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. NSWIS Head Coach for Park & Pipe, Patrick Walsh said that the Freeski team have taken the opportunity to work hard during a long training camp in Austria for the past couple of months. The three Australian freeski athletes on the team, Abi Harrigan, Mia Rennie and Bailey Johnson are all making their maiden appearance at a World Championships. Unfortunately Cameron Waddell, who was tipped to be Australia’s top male skier at the event, won’t travel to Aspen due to an injury occurred during a training session in Austria.
“Abi, Mia, and Bailey are all skiing strong, and keen to get into the start gate to represent Australia in Aspen,” Walsh said.
National Freeski Development Coach Leon Tarbotton said that the team is extremely grateful for the opportunity to ski and train in Austria during the Northern Hemisphere winter season.
“They have all managed to find their ski legs and have been skiing well. We have also been extremely fortunate with weather in Absolut Park, Austria.
“We are hoping that our athletes' inexperience at a World Championships and World Cup level events may work in their favor. Both Abi and Mia have competed recently at World Junior events and at the Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne,” Tarbotton said.
With very few World Cups being able to run this season, the World Championships in Aspen are the biggest opportunity for Australian athletes to score valuable qualification points for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games. The Australian team coaching staff said this season’s program was structured to maximise this opportunity.
“Our skiers are still very new to competing at a World Cup level. With this in mind and our focus on building into a debut Olympic qualification, we won’t be swinging for the fences when at World’s,” Walsh said.
“Instead, we’ll be taking a more conservative and consistent approach to this event. The goal is to get some points on the board and walk away with a result that brings us closer to the Games, along with building our capabilities amongst a world’s best field.”
The Park and Pipe snowboard team is a much more experienced group of athletes, led by Australia’s most successful male snowboarder to date and three-time reigning World Champion Scotty James. Despite a shortened season, James was able to finish second in the only World Cup Halfpipe event of the year in Laax, Switzerland, and claim his sixth X-Games Superpipe medal, a silver, in Aspen.
Behind James, other Australian athletes to keep an eye out for are World Cup winner Tess Coady, Olympian Emily Arthur, Matt Cox and World Cup and World Championship rookie 16 year old, Valentino Guseli.
Guseli recently was super impressive qualifying through to the Finals round in 1st place at his World Cup Debut in LAAX, Switzerland. He eventually finished eighth in the Finals round.
The World Championships kick off Wednesday 10 March with qualifications for Freestyle Halfpipe and Snowboard Slopestyle. Head over to www.snow.org.au/live for the live streaming of the event.
The Australian team for the Aspen 2021 FIS Snowboard and Freeski World Championships:
Matthew COX - Snowboard (Slopestyle, Big Air)
Valentino GUSELI - Snowboard (Halfpipe)
Scotty JAMES - Snowboard (Halfpipe)
Emily ARTHUR - Snowboard (Halfpipe)
Tess COADY - Snowboard (Slopestyle, Big Air)
Bailey JOHNSON - Freeski (Slopestyle, Big Air)
Abi HARRIGAN - Freeski (Slopestyle, Big Air)
Mia RENNIE - Freeski (Slopestyle, Big Air)
Article Courtesy Snow Australia
IMAGE: Scotty James celebrates gold last season at the Olympic test event World Cup in China © Chris Hocking/OWIA