Fitch wins Australia's first Winter Youth Olympic medal
20 January 2012
Alex Fitch has made history today as Australia’s first ever Winter Youth Olympic medallist after pulling off a fantastic performance in the women’s snowboard slopestyle final to win bronze.
“It’s amazing!” Fitch said of her Innsbruck 2012 medal performance. “I’m so proud. It is so good to finally get on the podium and represent Australia.”
Fitch, who was fourth in halfpipe four days ago, qualified in third for the final, after completing two solid runs to get a best score of 77.75. Slopestyle is a new event where athletes ride through a course and perform tricks on rails and off jumps. The judges score both runs and the top score counts.
As the wind picked up between qualifiers and finals, conditions at the slopestyle course closed in with light rain falling and visibility worsening.
Fitch was third-last to drop into the course and pulled off a near-flawless run. She put together a combination of well-formed easier tricks at the top with a 50-50 on the first rail and a tail grab off the first jump.
With a horde of Australian fans scattered up the sides of the course, including nearly all of the athletes who have finished competition, Fitch powered down the remaining rails and jumps to huge applause.
“It was an ideal run,” Fitch said. “I got my jumps down and it felt great.”
On a score of 69.75, Fitch was in third position after the first run.
With medals at stake, the 16-year-old rider from the New South Wales central coast prepared to ramp up her tricks for the second run. Unfortunately though, she couldn’t perfect them as she would have liked.
Pulling a front 360 off the first jump, Fitch couldn’t quite get the trick down and stick the landing which lost her speed, causing her to miss the second jump and get a score of 42.50.
“I didn’t land my second run, but that’s what happens. I still got a bronze medal so I am stoked!”
With the top two ladies still to ride, Fitch was in third position from her first run score – and the medal was assured.
Canadian Audrey McManiman had nothing to lose on her second run, with the top of the podium locked in following her 84.25 first run. Her second run was also impressive with a 62.75 confirm ing her as the well deserving gold medallist.
With a score of 71.75 the silver medal went to the USA’s Arielle Gold, one of Fitch’s good friends in the snowboarding circuit who she sometimes trains with in Colorado.
The bronze on Thursday at Kuhtai Resort, an hour west of Innsbruck, continues Australia’s remarkable run of winter success.
Australia has medalled at the past five senior Winter Olympic Games.
Bright is one of Fitch’s heroes. She has also done a few dry land sessions with the News South Wales Institute of Sport squad that includes current halfpipe world champions Holly Crawford and Nate Johnstone.
It could be only two years before Fitch joins her idols on a senior Olympic Team. Slopestyle is one of the new events on the program for Sochi 2014.
Fitch was presented with the Innsbruck 2012 mascot, Yoggl, at the venue and will receive her bronze at a ceremony in the Medal Plaza at downtown Innsbruck on Friday evening (Saturday am in Australia
Alice Wheeler and Andrew Reid