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Graham primed and prepared as PyeongChang nears

Published 4 October 2017 (AEDT)

Matt Graham competes in the Men's Moguls qualification on day one of the FIS Freestyle Ski & Snowboard World Championships 2017. © Getty Images

MOGULS: Matt Graham knows all about pressure and big events having stood on World Cup podiums ten times and competed at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games where he finished 7th.

There won’t be a stone unturned in his preparation for PyeongChang next February.

“Especially in an Olympic year,” Graham said of his training since April. “You want to be first and be ahead of the eight ball and that gives you an edge. As long as you perform well, which is what I’m after, you’re always going to happy no matter what the result is."

Being prepared is how the Australian mogul skiers go about their business.

“I guess Olympics is just another event and in other ways, it’s not. There’s so much more meaning behind it,” Graham said before leaving for a Swiss training camp last week.

Since Sochi Graham says he has changed and learned.

“Overall, I’ve matured. I can deal with pressure at a competition and its part of growing as an athlete - everyone goes through that stage. Everything is just enhanced.”

“The off season this year has been about filling the gaps. Olympics is the target. I put more pressure on myself and I get more out of it than just another event.”

Last season began with a silver medal in Finland and in January this year Graham repeated his 2015/16 victory over Mikael Kingsbury in Calgary winning gold and making it an historic double act on the winner’s podium with team mate Britt Cox.

His outstanding results also included two bronze medals (Taiwoo, China and Tazawako, China – dual moguls) and two fourth place finishes.

Graham’s view of last season following the World Championships in Spain brings mixed emotions.

“The way I look at it (last season), it was up and down – a roller coaster. There were a few wins and Calgary was the highlight,” he said. “It was very special for Britt and me. We are basically family.”

“Worlds was an anti-climax. In hind-sight I was bummed about last season and know I have to work harder to go after the next level.”

The level of comradery between the Australian mogul team members is well known.

“There’s no discord. It comes with the culture we have built. We all started out in similar fashions at the club level,” he explained.

“We get to travel the world with our best friends as teammates and we take pride in that and push each other along.”

Coaches Steve ‘Des’ Desovich and Jerry Grossi meticulously plan each season and an Olympic preparation is no different.

“They’ve been involved in my career for a long time now. They’ve got a lot of tech expertise in acrobatics and I’m quite certain we have the best coaching staff in the world. They are unique and they want the most out of us day in and day out.”

The domestic season for the current World number three has already included a record breaking and historic sixth ABOM Mogul Challenge victory at Mt Buller in early September.

Prior to the ABOM, Graham won one of the two National Championships events in Perisher, beating ‘King’ Kingsbury but ceded the overall title to the Canadian on the second day.

Is the spectre of toppling the Canadian two-time World Champion, Olympic silver medallist and record holder for most World Cups won now less daunting for Graham?

“Yes and no. He’s getting better every day but he’s got competition now. It’s remarkable what he’s achieved and as a good friend I look up to him in a lot of ways, but I’m obviously trying to chase him and close the gap. In the last few years I’ve definitely closed that. I’ve now got a winning package,” Graham said.

“At Perisher I out skied him on day one of competition and that’s something that was on his mind and I know he feels a bit threatened by me. But he has a serious mental game on him. He’s consistent.”

Graham is focussing on himself rather than Kingsbury.

“It’s an individual sport. It comes down to each run and how I execute my run. I know for sure that when he is struggling it gets to him and vice versa. It goes both ways - that’s for sure.”

Following the domestic season, Graham headed to the AIS for the altitude house with fellow mogul skier Rohan Chapman-Davies, Snowboard Cross’ Adam Lambert and Ski Cross athlete Sami Kennedy-Sim.

“This period is a time where we could focus on strength and conditioning and get on top of it. We were effectively living at 3,000 metres before the mogul team go into camp at Zermatt in Switzerland with a high intensity conditioning focus. We are training to prepare for training!”

The Central Coast native, already a seasoned, experienced world competitor will celebrate his 23rd birthday on October 23. He credits his younger sailing days on Brisbane Waters for honing his competitive skills.

“What’s not to miss on the coast?” he asked. “The water is great. The surf or, on the lake if it’s windy enough for a sail.”
As a young teenager Graham competed in sailing winning four national and six state titles in the junior class.

“Sailing gave me a taste for gold. Definitely. As a youngster, I was pretty dominant and I didn’t cope with losing then. Sailing taught me that. Now, I want to get used to winning again.”

“I’m really enjoying the sport, competing and travelling and I’m really hungry.”

“There are seven World Cups between now and the Games. It’s exciting as an athlete in Australia.”

“We’ve had our greatest year ever in winter sports. Moguls have obviously done well and then we watch everyone out there crushing it week in and week out, read the news of another medal and when we read it, it pushes you.”

The Mogul Skiing World Cups begin in Ruka, Finland on December 9.

Belinda Noonan
OWIA

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