All eyes are on his superstar teammate Scotty James, but Australian Olympic debutant Valentino Guseli is feeling good about his chances for Wednesday’s halfpipe qualifying.
The 16-year-old tested out the Zhangjiakou halfpipe in training and said it was a good fit for his style.
Guseli, who last year took American legend Shaun White’s world record for the highest air out of a halfpipe, likes to go big.
He enters the Olympic competition in impressive form, finishing sixth in last month’s X Games, which was won by James.
Guseli has made a full recovery after breaking his wrist late last year, which threatened his Games debut.
“Being here is a dream come true and the pipe is so perfect,” said Guseli, who is from Dalmeny on the NSW far south coast.
“I’m definitely going to push as hard as I can and it very much suits the amplitude style of riding which is what I definitely want to do, so I think it’s going to be a very good time.”
— X Games (@XGames) January 21, 2022
Guseli kept a close eye last year on the men’s skateboard park event, which made its debut at the Tokyo Olympics.
Fellow Australian teenager Keegan Palmer won the gold medal and 18-year-old Kieran Woolley finished fifth.
“When I saw Keegan win it, it was awesome and my friend Kieran did really well so I’m definitely drawing inspiration from that,” he said.
“I want to match or do better than what they did as that’s something that I watched and was super stoked to see.”
Our youngest #Beijing2022 Team member is snowboarder Valentino Guseli.
— AUS Olympic Team (@AUSOlympicTeam) January 25, 2022
Although those boys were an inspiration to him, Guseli hopes he can be the same for other young snowboarders looking to pursue their Olympic dreams.
“I’m just pushing myself to go as big and be as clean and do the most technical tricks I can,” he said.
“I really want to take this opportunity because there’s a lot more people watching it than any other snowboard comp.
“So if I can push snowboarding out to an audience who haven’t really seen it yet, and inspire others to snowboard than that’s really why we do it.”
The men’s halfpipe qualification rounds are on Wednesday and the medals will be decided on Friday.
The women’s snowboard cross, with triple Olympian Belle Brockhoff and youngster Josie Baff flying the Australian flag, will be decided on Wednesday.
PyeongChang bronze medallist James, who won the Olympic test event in Zhangjiakou, also gave the pipe the thumbs up.
“It’s a nice halfpipe – I’ve had good time here as I won the test event two years ago so naturally that builds my momentum and I feel really good riding here,” James said.
“I feel really good. I’ve obviously had a really good lead-up to this event and really good practices and training so now I just come here and enjoy being in my green and gold and do what I love.”
American legend Shaun White, the three-time Olympic gold medallist in the halfpipe, has confirmed this will be his retirement event.
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