Tensions between Aussie snowboarders rise at Winter Olympics

Tensions between Aussie snowboarders rise at Winter Olympics
Photo by LG Snowboard FIS World Cup via Wikimedia Commons

Having being replaced as Australia’s best snowboarder, Alex Pullin chose not to attend the winners ceremony as fellow Australian Jarryd Hughes celebrated his silver medal for snowboard cross in Pyeongchang.

Facing fierce competition, Hughes was able win silver at the Pheonix Snow Park men’s final. He fell just behind world champion and defending gold medallist from France, Pierre Vaultier.

Pullin, who was the second Australian competitor in the final, had a crash halfway through the race and did not cross the finish line. Pullin left the course without speaking to Hughes as long-time tensions between the two snowboarders became apparent.

However, Pullin did make an appearance at Hughes’s medal celebration party. Despite this Pullin’s boycott of the podium prompted OWIA (Olympic Winter Institute) manager Geoff Lipshut to confirm that there was a history of “personal issues” between Hughes and Pullin.

Lipshut told reporters that the institute had “put a process in place” whereby all athletes would need to respect each other during the games. He went on to say that the process needed only to make sure that they are happy to be on the same team and “get on well enough to do their sport”, not asking for anything more.

Hughes does all of his training separate to Pullin as well as many other snowboard riders in Australia’s team. The animosity between Pullin and Hughes follows on from a funding argument that occurred during the Sochi Winter Olympic games.

At the Sochi games many Australian snowboarders, including Hughes, complained that Pullin was getting too much attention and funding whilst they were “team outcast”. Lipshut addressed this point, saying that the funding issues had been resolved and that there was no open animosity between athletes in the lead-up to the current games.

Lipshut went on to say that he lead-in to the current games was rehearsed. He said that athletes were told to that they were sharing a team and they had to “get used to it”.

Silver winner Hughes said that snowboarding was “an individual sport” whereby even teammates “want to beat each other”.  He went on to say that he was grateful for the program that had accounted for the team dynamic and said he would not have made it to the current games without it.

Hughes said that he was glad he saw “all the hard work paying off” and that the lead-up was “a rough year but we made it work”.

Hughes has joined Scotty James and Matt Graham as the Australians who have so far won medal in the Pyeongchang games.