12 March 2023

Thredbo snowboarding ambassadors win big for Australia in world championships

| James Day
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Tess Coady in her snowboard gear holding up the Australian flag

Tess Coady celebrates after winning bronze at the big air snowboard cross event in Georgia. Photo: Olympic Winter Institute/Twitter.

Three Thredbo ambassadors took home medals for Australia recently at the FIS World Championships in Bakuriani, Georgia. Tess Coady, Josie Baff and Valentino Guseli brought their best to the Australian team which had its most successful Freestyle Ski and Snowboard World Championship ever. The competition was held in the Lesser Caucasus Mountains from 19 February to 5 March, with events in a variety of disciplines.

Born and raised in Melbourne, 22-year-old Tess Coady is a regular on the slopes of Thredbo. Her abilities have taken her all over the world. She was Australia’s first ever World Cup gold medallist for the slopestyle event at 2020’s competition in Italy, Australia’s first medallist at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, earning bronze for the same discipline, and also took home silver for slopestyle at this year’s X-Games in the US.

Coady’s specialty is slopestyle, which involves riders going down a course with various ramps and obstacles while doing tricks. However in Georgia, she won bronze for the ‘big air’ event. This discipline involves riders performing as many high-scoring manoeuvres as possible in one big jump.

READ MORE Snowboarders Baff and Guseli strike gold and make history in World Cup competitions

Born in Cooma and a resident of Jindabyne, 20-year-old Josie Baff is one of Australia’s most watched snowboarders. She is Australia’s first winter youth Olympic champion, taking home a gold medal for snowboard cross.

The event, snowboard cross, involves between four to six racers barrelling down an obstacle-laden course. During the most recent world cup season she came second in Italy and first in France. In Georgia she won silver in snowboard cross, which is a notable debut for her first world championships.

Josie Baff in snowboard gear holding her silver medal

Josie Baff won silver in snowboard cross and it was her first start at a world championship event. Photo: Olympic Winter Institute/Twitter.

Valentino (Val) Guseli, the 17-year-old phenom from the South Coast started young on the slopes of Jindabyne and has remained busy ever since. At age 11 he became the youngest person to ever perform a double backflip on a snowboard. Later he went on to break the world record for the highest air [jump] off a halfpipe, previously set by legend of snowboarding Shaun White.

READ MORE How a Dalmeny teenager broke the halfpipe world record in Switzerland

As the fourth snowboarder in history to achieve a podium spot in big air, slopestyle and halfpipe, his talents range across all disciplines. At last year’s Bakuriani World Cup, Val took silver for slopestyle with the same result this year in the halfpipe event.

Unfortunately he was only able to perform in one event due to some injuries acquired during training. His mum, Kristen, informed Region of the saga that squashed his plans to compete in the other two events.

“A few days out from the big air qualifying heats, my husband called saying he might’ve broken both of his ankles while training for the slopestyle event,” said Kristen. In Val and his dad’s strategy talks they decided he shouldn’t compete in either slopestyle or big air “as it would be too risky”.

Following six days of recovery, Val qualified third and won silver in big air. Kristen reported that he “undoubtedly put down the best halfpipe run of his life”, which was the result of him landing a trick he had never done before.

The podium athletes for the halfpipe event in Georgia

The final podium for the halfpipe event had South Korea’s Chaeun Lee in first place, Valentino in second, and Switzerland’s Jan Scherrer in third. Photo: Kristen Guseli.

The trick is called a ‘cab triple cork 1440’ and was performed by Val under the influence of severe bone bruising, not broken ankles.

“In the halfpipe, there’s a very small error margin. So when the crosswind picks up, it can be very dangerous,” Kristen said.

When asked if she believed Australian snow sports athletes, like her son, were better equipped to handle tougher conditions due to the climate here, Kristen agreed.

“Yes, definitely. Val can ride on all terrain, whether it is ice, slush or wind. He has always been good at this since he was young.”

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