As injured Olympic medalist Matt Graham races against time to be fit for Beijing, rising Australian mogul star Cooper Woods has recorded back-to-back top-10 performances ahead of the Winter Games.
The 21-year-old finished fifth at the World Cup in Deer Valley, Utah on Friday (AEDT), reclaiming a ninth-place finish in the final round in Canada, his form perfectly in sync with the Olympic mogul events at just three weeks old .
And in another boost to Australia’s medal prospects, Jakara Anthony placed third in the women’s event behind 2018 Olympic gold medalist French skier Perrine Laffont and Japanese teenager Anri Kawamura.
The podium places were incredibly tight with just 0.46 points between Anthony and first-placed Laffont, who took the lead in the overall World Cup standings.
It was Anthony’s seventh podium of the season to take third place overall.
Along with men’s Olympic champion, Canadian Mikael Kingsbury, who won back-to-back World Cup events, Woods was the best of the Australian men.
From the small town of Pambula Beach on the south coast of New South Wales, it was his best result in World Cup competition.
“It was my first super final, I was pretty excited if you want to know the truth,” Woods said.
“I had to take deep breaths, review my goals with my coach, and just had to go down the run and put in a good one.”
Brodie Summers finished second in 19th with James Matheson 24th while in the women’s competition Sophie Ash was 23rd, Britt Cox 29th and Madii Himbury 33rd.
A second World Cup will take place in Deer Valley on Saturday morning (AEDT) which will be the last mogul competition before the Games.
The team will then move to Ruka, Finland to complete preparations for the Olympics and will be joined by Graham, who has taken a big step forward in his recovery from a broken collarbone.
The Pyeongchang Olympic silver medalist was injured in a training accident in Sweden last month and after surgery to insert a plate and screws returned to Australia to recuperate.
He trained on the water ramp specially designed for the Winter Olympics in Brisbane, practicing jumps.
“It’s weird to be here on an Australian summer just 22 days away from my Olympic competition, but exciting too,” Graham said.
“It’s super important and beneficial to be able to use this facility and there’s nowhere else in the world where you can do that right now.”
The 27-year-old said he stepped up his training, with his shoulder up.
“I put the shoulder to the test, I got back in the air to get that confidence back,” Graham said.
“I went through the skills I’m going to practice in Beijing…it was good to get the feelings and sensations back.”