2 February 2022

Winter athletes head from Snowys to Beijing with gold in their eyes

| Edwina Mason
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Josie Baff

Josie Baff of Jindabyne is pinching herself knowing she is part of the Australian Olympic team that will compete in Beijing this coming month. Photo: Supplied.

With the opening ceremony for the Beijing Winter Olympics set to be held tomorrow, Jindabyne’s Josie Baff has been pegged as one of Australia’s best gold medal hopes.

Aged just 17, the snowboard cross racer blazed a trail at Lausanne 2020 with Australia’s first-ever Winter Youth Olympic Games gold medal and, from that moment, she’s had the Olympics podium in her sights.

READ ALSO Jindabyne’s golden girl reflects on making history at 2020 Winter Youth Olympics

Following her breakthrough season, Josie received a Tier One scholarship in the Sport Australia Hall of Fame mentoring program. She was paired with one of Australia’s most successful swimmers, Susie O’Neill, to mentor her.

At 18, she made her World Cup debut in early 2021 at Bakuriani, Georgia. Lining up against some of her idols in the sport, Josie progressed through to the finals and ultimately finished her World Cup debut in an impressive 15th position.

Josie Baff at the snow

Josie Baff said getting selected was such an awesome feeling. “I came into this season knowing what I had to do to qualify.” Photo: Australian Olympic team website.

Her Olympic debut in the Women’s Snowboard Cross event on 9 February is expected to be the first of many to come.

Currently testing the groomed slopes in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, in preparation for the final Audi Federation of International Skiing (FIS) World Cup super-G before the Olympics, even she is pinching herself that soon she’ll be jetting to China to represent Australia.

“Everything feels kind of surreal and I almost feel quite removed from the situation,” she told About Regional this week.

“Getting selected was such an awesome feeling. I came into this season knowing what I had to do to qualify.”

A few testing hiccups along the way made her life a little harder, Josie said.

“But now it makes it even sweeter to have qualified to be going to my first Games.”

A “very, very excited” Josie says she can’t wait to touch ground in Beijing.

“But one step at a time,” she added. “So my focus will be on the World Cup in a few days.”

The Australian team consists of 44 athletes (21 men and 23 women), competing in 10 sports.

Homesickness won’t be a factor in Josie’s campaign because right beside her are fellow locals Adam Lambert, Adam Dickson and Abi Harrington.

Adam Lambert

Adam Lambert first stepped on a snowboard when he was 18 months old, now the seasoned veteran will be competing at his second Olympic Games. Photo: Australian Olympic team website.

This is a second Olympics for Adam Lambert, 24, who first stepped on a snowboard at just 18 months of age after his parents built him a custom set of bindings for his small feet.

Growing up, Adam specialised in slopestyle, however after sustaining a knee injury, he decided to swap to snowboard cross in 2015 and placed 15th at the 2015 Junior World Championships.

After claiming his first World Cup podium in December 2017, Adam went on to make his Olympic debut at PyeongChang 2018.

He missed out on progressing through to the quarterfinals at the Games, finishing in 29th place after being caught up in a crash.

Another Jindabyne local, Adam Dickson, started snowboard cross in 2013 after watching some friends competing in the sport. Three years later, he made his World Cup debut at the Olympic Test Event in Bokwang, Korea where he placed 20th.

Adam Dickson snowboarding

Just under a decade in the sport and Adam Dickson of Jindabyne is also Beijing bound in the snowboard cross event. Photo: Australian Olympic team website.

After narrowly missing out on qualification for the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games, Adam recorded a personal-best 12th place at the La Molina World Cup in March 2018.

The 25-year-old had a breakthrough during the 2019-20 World Cup tour, recording his first World Cup podium with a bronze in Switzerland. The following season, Adam finished eighth at the World Cup in Bakuriani, Georgia and ended the season ranked 25th in the world.

Adam will make his Olympic debut at Beijing 2022 where he will represent Australia in the men’s snowboard cross.

Former Jindabyne Primary School student, Abi Harrigan was on skis at age two.

Abi Harrigan

Freestyle skier Abi Harrigan was on skis at age two. She will be competing in the slopestyle, big air and halfpipe events at the Beijing Olympics. Photo: Australian Olympic team website.

By 10, she was chasing her brothers down the hill, jumping on or over objects that got bigger and higher as they tried to outdo each other … a freestyle skier in the making.

Abi’s first International Ski Federation sanctioned events, at age 15, were also her first two podiums.

She won the halfpipe and slopestyle gold medals in the Australian National Junior Championships at Perisher in August 2017 and two months later she won the same events in Cardrona at the New Zealand Junior Championships.

Abi backed that up by winning the slopestyle gold again at both the 2018 Australian and New Zealand titles a year later. Her World Cup debut was in September 2019 – 18th in Halfpipe, back at Cardrona.

So with the Tasman area well-covered, it was time to head overseas and compete as part of the 2020 Winter Youth Olympics in Switzerland. Abi finished 12th in the slopestyle, 10th in the halfpipe and 15th in the big air.

She followed that with silver in big air at the European Cup in Davos, Switzerland.

A year later and another podium finish – bronze in slopestyle at Innsbruck – put Abi in strong form heading into the 2021 World Championships at Aspen in March. She enjoyed top 20 finishes in two events – 13th in slopestyle and 18th in big air.

Abi – a scholarship holder with the NSW Institute of Sport – has had 11 World Cup starts, with two of her best results coming in slopestyle most recently – 15th at Mammoth Mountain, USA and 13th at Font Romeu, France – both in January 2022.

The Winter Olympics will be held from February 4 to February 20, 2022 and will take place across three competition zones – Beijing, Yangqing and Zhangjiakou.

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