Two of Australia’s unlikeliest stars have become immediate heroes in Beijing, making Winter Olympics history after a surprise Covid comeback.
Sunday was Australia’s first ever dual-medal day at the Winter Olympics as 12-year gold medal drought was finally broken.
Tess Coady kicked things off by claiming bronze in the snowboard slopestyle behind Zoi Sadowski-Synnott, who won New Zealand’s first ever gold medal.
Skiing superstar Jakara Anthony then took centre stage when she won gold in the women’s freestyle moguls.
Aussie duo make history after shock backflip
Australia’s history-making mixed curling team avoided being sent home after news broke on Sunday they were going to be on the first plane out of Beijing following a positive Covid test — then achieved something seriously special.
Tahli Gill and Dean Hewitt were scheduled to compete in a round robin match against Switzerland from 5pm (AEDT) on Sunday, but news emerged after midday the pair would be leaving China, the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) confirmed.
But a matter of hours later, a backflip revealed the pair would in fact be able to stay and compete against Switzerland. Following the reprieve, Gill and Hewitt pulled off a massive upset, beating the defending silver medal-winning team 9-6 for Australia’s first ever curling victory at a Winter Olympics
The success didn’t stop there as the Aussies defeated 2018 gold medallists Canada 9-8 for a second huge upset.
The 11th hour reprieve came after the AOC received an email from the Chinese Public Health System advising that Gill and Hewitt could stay in Beijing under the close contact provisions as “The MEP examined Tahli Gill’s CT values following PCR testing over the past 24 hours and determined that they fell into an acceptable range”.
Australian Olympic Team Chef de Mission Geoff Lipshut said the pair was extremely excited to be able to resume competition — and they clearly made the most of their second chance.
“We are thrilled for Tahli and Dean and I am delighted that our headquarters team continued pressing her case, after earlier advice that the pair could no longer compete,” Mr Lipshut concluded.
Gill contracted Covid in Canada last month before travelling to Beijing, where she returned a positive test. As a result, she and Hewitt were both placed in isolation for two days before the Games got underway.
When Gill returned multiple negative test results they were given permission to compete.
‘Oh my god’: Aussie’s reply is best thing ever
Aussie debutant Cooper Woods-Topalovic has been left speechless after progressing through to the men’s moguls super final.
His score of 78.88 in the final was enough to finish sixth overall – narrowly falling short of the bronze medal score of 81.48.
His post-run interview said it all as he was left lost for words with pure elation about what he’d achieved.
“Oh my,” he told Seven at the start of his interview.
“What a night. That was just what I’ve been working for my entire life. So to stand up there in the super final, it was just a starstruck moment. I’m a little bit lost for words to be honest.”
Woods-Topalovic really lost it when told Aussie surf legend Mick Fanning had sent him a fan video in the days leading up to his competition.
“Oh my god. That’s unbelievable,” he said.
“I’m so excited to see that. He’s an absolute champion. I can’t wait to see it.”
Fannings message told Woods-Topalovic to simply believe in himself,
“G’day Cooper. Mick Fanning here. How ya goin’ mate? I just wanted to wish you all the best for the upcoming Olympics,” the former world champion said.
“I know it’s been a bit of a struggle to get there. But if life was easy everyone would be doing this. So believe in yourself mate. You’ve done all the hard work and we believe in you. All of Australia is behind you mate and go and let it rip. It’s time to have fun mate. Enjoy.”
Olympic legend calls it quits
American snowboard legend Shaun White has revealed that these Olympics would be his final Games as the 35-year-old chases his fourth half-pipe gold medal.
With Aussie Scotty James set to be one of the big guns to spoil the party for White, it’ll be hard to bet against the legendary American.
I mean, he’s literally the Shane Warne or Tony Hawke of his sport with Shaun White Snowboarding the video game of the sport.
But he will retire from the sport after these games as he defends his 2018 PyeongChang title, revealing he had been getting “little signs” from his 35-year-old body.
The three-time half-pipe champion said he intends to “squeeze every bit of fun and excitement” out of his fifth and final Games before bringing the curtain down on his storied career.
“In my mind, I think I’ve decided this will be the last competition,” he said.
“It’s this now, it’s that now — it’s all these little things adding up that’s taking away from days of practice that I would normally have.”
Heartbreaking interview ruins Australia
2018 Winter Olympic moguls silver medallist Matt Graham has said he “felt a little bit embarrassed” after missing out on the 2022 Olympic finals.
The 27-year-old from NSW’s Central Coast came into the Olympics with the worst possible lead in when he broke his collarbone in December during a World Cup event in Sweden.
Remarkably, he was training just weeks later, desperate to not miss his third Olympic Games.
Graham was one of the stories of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics when he claimed the silver medal, one of only three medals alongside Jarryd Hughes’ snowboard cross silver and Scotty James’ snowboard half-pipe bronze.
But his dream of a shock comeback from the brutal injury has fallen apart in Beijing as he missed out on qualification for the finals.
At the bottom of the mountain, he looked distraught before getting the score for his final run.
Speaking to Channel 7 afterwards, Graham couldn’t hide his emotions.
“It’s tough to describe,” he began. “This hurts a hell of a lot more than the collarbone did, I’m not going to lie. Put in so much work over the last however many years.”
Graham said the collarbone didn’t hold him back
“With my entry, how I was skiing here, I had a lot to give tonight,” he said. “Obviously not doing well a couple of nights a go put a bit more pressure on tonight but I felt like I was handling it really well.
“And then just kind of missed the takeoff on the top jump, landed a little left. It is tough conditions out here, it’s quite windy. I felt like I got bit of a tailwind which really accelerates you and then a couple of bad turns, that was it. I don’t really know what to say.”
His sister Eliza Graham is the team’s physio and he said she gave him a big hug at the bottom of the mountain.
But so raw in his emotions, he said “I wish I could’ve done better than this.”