Australia’s first Winter Youth Olympic Games gold medal arrived in the most dramatic of circumstances on Monday at Villars Winter Park as Josie Baff (AUS) won the women’s snowboard cross final by just 0.05 seconds.
Baff pipped Margaux Herpin (FRA) to grab what was also Australia’s first medal of the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games. Anouk Doerig (SUI) got the bronze.
“I’m stoked, I’m shocked, I’m very overwhelmed,” Baff said. “The conditions were perfect. Everyone was racing so well. Every single race has been insanely close. Something hit me at the end to win it. I don’t remember much about the race. My mum and dad are in tears and so was I. Everyone will be so happy back home.”
In the men’s event it was business as usual for Switzerland, who have won gold medals on all but one of the competition days at Villars. Valerio Jud (SUI) prevailed in another close contest.
“I feel really happy,” he said. “The race was a little bit sketchy but the end was good. Having the support from the crowd was very nice.”
Niels Conradt (GER) got silver and Alvaro Romero (ESP) bronze.
While the winners are highly experienced boarders, a fascinating exception from further down the field were the Chinese women.
Neither Chai Xin (CHN) nor Nimayongqing (CHN) had been on a snowboard until June 2018. Now, they are full-time athletes determined to perform at a high level at the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games.
China would like to attract more athletes to elite snowboard competition and are investing in the sport.
“They put a lot of resources into it,” said Li Zhongyi (CHN), head of the Chinese snowboard team. “They set about identifying some girls who were good athletes. Chai was excellent at kung fu. She had never been on the snow.
“They are making very fast progress. They might not have years of boarding like the European athletes but they are putting in lots of hours every day.”