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Australia’s all-time top 10 snow sports athletes

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Winter Sports

Kate Allman ranks Australia’s greatest skiers and snowboarders of all time based on FIS WC, X Games and Olympic medals.

For a relatively flat country with very little snow, Australia punches above its weight in winter sports.

The little red boxing kangaroo has knocked out records and scooped medals across plenty of Winter Olympic Games and FIS World Cups. Halfpipe snowboard champion Scotty James even dons red boxing gloves when competing to prove it.

Who are the best Australian winter athletes of all time, and can you name them all?

We pored over extensive data from Australia’s Olympic Winter Institute including FIS World Cup medal results, FIS Crystal Globes, World Championships and X Games alongside Olympic medals and did our best to rank the top 10 winter athletes of all time.

See if you agree with the choice and ranking.

10. Laura Peel – aerial skiing

The “Real Deal Peel” exploded out of the Canberra bubble onto international stage in 2009. She’s an aerial skiing double-World Champion, winning the championship in both 2015 and in 2021. She has 21 FIS medals, won two consecutive World Cup Crystal Globes and leads the way as the only female to be consistently jumping the highest degree of difficulty in triple twisting triple back somersaults. Unfortunately, the moves haven’t yet paid off on an Olympic stage – with fifth places in PyeongChang and Beijing being her best results.

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9. Matt Graham – moguls

This NSW Central Coast-born mogul skier joined the Perisher Winter Sports Club mogul program when he was just six years old and the rest of us were snow-ploughing in Milo bibs. He broke onto the World Cup circuit when he was 15 and went on to win 20 FIS event medals around the world. In 2018 he added an Olympic medal to that haul when he claimed silver at PyeongChang.

Graham won a Crystal Globe in 2021 – but fell from that dizzying high to a devastating low by breaking his collarbone before the 2022 Winter Games. Beijing was his third Olympics and the nation cried with him when he recovered from the injury in record time to compete, only to skew a landing and miss out on the finals.

8. Torah Bright – snowboarding halfpipe, slopestyle, boardercross

As hard as Olympic medals are to come by, this Cooma local always made it look breathlessly easy – winning not one but two while flying high over the snowboard park and pipe. Carrying the Australian flag in the opening ceremony of the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver must have been a good omen for Bright, because it was there she landed a series of gravity defying-tricks culminating in the first-ever backside-720 performed by a woman in competition. The high-risk manoeuvre won her the gold and she followed up with a silver in a blistering run of snowboard slopestyle at Sochi four years later.

In Sochi Bright also pulled off an enormous feat by being the first man or woman to compete in three separate disciplines: halfpipe, slopestyle and boardercross.

Bright had stamped her impact on the FIS World Cup scene from the age of just 16 when she was runner-up for the world title in 2003. But from there, she lacked consistency and rarely made the World Cup podium. She snaffled eight FIS medals over her career – which is less than other athletes on this list – but did add five X-Games medals to the trophy cabinet.

7. Alisa Camplin – aerial skiing

The Colgate-ad grin and gold-medal-winning jump at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics made Alisa Camplin an icon of Australian aerial skiing. No matter that she started her athletic career as a gymnast and only bought her first set of skis when she turned 22.

Camplin won Australia’s first-ever Olympic gold medal in Salt Lake, then backed it up with bronze in Torino 2006. She also nabbed 20 FIS medals and scooped the double World Cup and World Championship win in 2002-03. Since retiring she has stayed involved in snow sports and was Australia’s Chef de Mission in Beijing 2022.

6. Jakara Anthony – moguls

Australia’s golden girl of Beijing floored the competition at the 2022 Olympics, scoring the highest points in every round of the women’s moguls. Her gold medal put Anthony in an elite club of only six Australians to have won gold at a Winter Olympics and was made sweeter by the fact she had narrowly missed the podium in fourth place at PyeongChang.

Anthony is currently the number-one-ranked woman mogul skier in the world, has 20 medals on the FIS World Cup circuit and finished the 2021-22 season as a dual champion, winning the overall World Cup Crystal Globe and the dual mogul Crystal Globe. Her record of 12 medals from 13 starts in the past year is insane. We’ve pushed her off the podium on this list due to years of experience – expect plenty more successes from this 23-year-old.

5. Michael Milton – para alpine skiing

Australia’s most successful Winter Paralympian had a career spanning two decades, with 11 Paralympic medals (including six gold) and 11 World Championship gongs (six gold). Milton lost his left leg above the knee to bone cancer when he was just nine years old but went on to win Australia’s first ever Paralympic or Olympic gold medal at the 1992 Games in Men’s Slalom LW2.

His most memorable performance was in Salt Lake City, where he produced an historic four-gold clean sweep of alpine skiing events in his class. He has six World Championship wins, was World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability in 2002 and has continued to be a voice and trailblazer for snow athletes with disabilities, as assistant Alpine Skiing coach for the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi.

4. Dale Begg-Smith – moguls

Arguably Australia’s best-ever mogul skier was not originally Australian: he grew up and competed in Canada before moving to Australia at 16 to train with the green and gold. We’ll claim him after he earned citizenship, however, and won gold for Australia in Torino in 2006, then followed up with silver in Vancouver 2010. His impressive career featured 29 World Cup podiums, with 18 gold medals, plus three World Championship medals. Crystal Globes? Yeah, he’s got four.

Begg-Smith is a notoriously reclusive character who avoided media – perhaps explaining why his name is not as ubiquitous as others on this list. He vanished after the 2014 Sochi Olympics and is reportedly living on Grand Cayman Island.

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3. Alex “Chumpy” Pullin – snowboard cross

The late Alex “Chumpy” Pullin was – and still is – undeniably an icon of Australian snow sports. Australia’s most successful snowboard cross athlete, he was a two-time Crystal Globe winner, two-time World Champion, and winner of two Snowboard Cross World Titles. He competed in three Olympics and carried the Australian flag at Sochi 2014, all the while winning 23 FIS World Cup medals and one X-Games silver. Sadly, he could never quite find his form under the Olympic rings and crashed out every time he came close to the podium, finishing sixth in PyeongChang.

Chumpy tragically died in a spearfishing accident in 2018, just 32 years old, when many believed he had a fourth Olympics in him. However, his legendary generosity lives on through life partner Ellidy, who this year launched a charity in his memory to provide financial assistance for emerging young snowboarders to have a go at the big time through training, racing and facilities.

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2. Scotty James – freestyle snowboarding and halfpipe

Two-time Olympic medallist and three-time World Champion snowboarder Scotty James has 24 FIS, X-Games and Olympic medals under his belt. The 27 year old began his international career at 14, was the Australian flag bearer at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, is currently ranked number one snowboarder in the world and is the first snowboarder in history to bring home three World Championship titles and he did them back to back.

A career highlight came when James took the scalp of three-time Olympic gold medallist and the veritable GOAT of snowboarding, American Shaun White, at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. James knocked White off the podium, but Japan’s Hirano Ayumu put up the most points on his final run. The Aussie left Beijing with silver, and a gold-medal-shaped debt to claim when he heads to the 2026 Games in Milano Cortina (Italy).

1. Lydia Lassila and Jacqui Cooper

Two of the greatest aerial skiers the world has seen, these Australian legends each have double the medal tallies of most other athletes on this list and are impossible to split. Both women suffered and recovered from brutal injuries – busted knees, elbows, shoulders, hips and broken legs – which makes their achievements all the more impressive.

Cooper edges out Lassila with more medals and World Cup wins over a 20-year career: she won 40 World Cup medals (25 gold) and eight Crystal Globes and five World Championships plus three overall freestyle crowns and she competed in five Olympics.

Lassila won 39 World Cup medals (16 gold), however, we all know the unique combination of preparation, skill and luck that go into timing an Olympic medal. That elusive achievement always evaded Cooper, whereas four-time Olympian Lassila pinned it – winning gold at the 2010 Vancouver Games with a triple-twisting triple somersault.

Arguably Lassila’s bravest moment was unleashing a world-first quad-twisting triple somersault when victory was on the line at 2014 Sochi Games. Her slightly mistimed landing earned bronze but won the world’s awe in setting a new benchmark for women’s aerial skiing.

*Special mentions – Kirstie Marshall (aerials), Britt Cox (moguls), Zali Steggall (alpine)

This article originally appeared on Snowsbest.

SnowsBest
SnowsBest
Rachael, aka @misssnowitall, is the publisher behind SnowsBest, diving into all things ski and snowboard related for every kind of skier and snowboarder from beginner to oh my god I’m a pro, pimping rich to povo poor, rocking chicks that rip, blokes who aren’t afraid to know a chick that rips and anyone whose life is enhanced by a day in the mountains.

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