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The unlikely journey of Olympic star

Australia's Matt Graham celebrates his silver medal win
Australia's Matt Graham celebrates his silver medal win

AT FIRST glance it would appear to make as much sense as a talented Swiss skier taking up a career in surfing but Matt Graham's decision to chase the mountains has proved a masterstroke.

A junior sailing champion based on the NSW Central Coast, Graham had to ultimately decide between the bumps and the brine.

He chose the former and is now Australia's first medallist of the 2018 Winter Olympics, taking out silver on Monday night in the moguls at Bokwang Phoenix Park.

It wasn't always a clear path.

Matt Graham, aged 13 years, represented NSW at the QLD Sabot Sailing Championships in the 13 — 16 yrs division.
Matt Graham, aged 13 years, represented NSW at the QLD Sabot Sailing Championships in the 13 — 16 yrs division.

 

The ocean was on his doorstep and the boy new his way around a sabot - to the point where he claimed four national age titles.

But when the weather cooled and the dinghys were packed away his parents would take he and his three siblings on a six-hour-plus drive to the NSW Snowy Mountains most winter weekends.

There Graham quickly distinguished himself from other weekend hackers by developing a taste for Perisher's bumps.

"My dream originally as a kid was to go to the summer Olympics in sailing and then come away and go to the Winter Olympics for skiing," he said. "It wasn't 'til I was about 12 years old that I figured it was too bloody hard and I had to choose one."

Matt Graham training on the trampoline.
Matt Graham training on the trampoline.

 

Right about this time Graham got to admire and ultimately know another fish out of water - Canadian turned Australian moguls skier Dale Begg-Smith. He watched in awe as Begg-Smith took gold for his adopted country in Turin 12 years ago and it was right about then his choice became obvious.

Begg-Smith helped to nurture the talents of the teen and eight years later the pair would ski at the Winter Olympics in Sochi where master would officially hand over to apprentice.

There Graham finished seventh while Begg-Smith was 25th and promptly retired after the event.

Matt Graham gestures on the podium after winning the silver medal in the Men's Moguls Final at Phoenix Snow Park during the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games.
Matt Graham gestures on the podium after winning the silver medal in the Men's Moguls Final at Phoenix Snow Park during the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games.

 

But the pair have kept in touch to the point where the notoriously private two- time Games medal winner routinely examines video footage of Graham's skiing.

"I'm sure he is somewhere in the world watching and is pretty chuffed," Graham said. "He's definitely been a big influence on me and it was only just before he came here and we were in touch at Steamboat, showing him footage and he was giving me pointers.

"He just has a crazy eye for the sport and can see it the way no one else can."

Despite skiing taking up much of his time along with his double degree in civil engineering and business, the water still calls.

He plans to get home to the Central Coast soon where he already has a few boat races planned.

Matt Graham skiing the mogul on Toppa's Dream at Perisher Blue in 2007. Picture: Steve Cuff.
Matt Graham skiing the mogul on Toppa's Dream at Perisher Blue in 2007. Picture: Steve Cuff.

Topics:  journey matt graham olymics skiing sportsfeature

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