Australian 16-year-old snowboarding sensation Valentino Guseli soared to a sixth-place finish in the snowboard halfpipe final at the Beijing Winter Olympics 2022.
The NSW south coast local (Guseli hails from Dalmeny) was pitted against a stacked field, with the likes of fellow countryman (and two-time Olympic medallist) Scotty James, American legend Shaun White and three-time Olympic medalist snowboarder Ayumu Hirano all appearing in the final.
Japan’s Ayumu Hirano ended up clinching Gold, Scotty James got Silver, and Switzerland’s Jan Scherrer got bronze. Shaun White got 4th and Taylor Gold got 5th.
Scotty James said the fact that Guseli made it into the final at just 16 years of age “speaks for itself.”
Guseli started the snowboard half pipe final with a strong first run, not showing any signs of nerves, despite the momentous occasion.
His first trick was a backside 720 into a huge switch method. This line netted him a first score of 75.75, which put him into second place after the first round.
Guseli had another strong outing in his second run, getting a 79.95 for his line with the commentator joking that “he needed more halfpipe” as it appeared he had more to give. This score slotted him into third, but other scores from competitors meant by the end of this round he had fallen to sixth place.
In the final run, Guseli needed a giant line to put himself into medal contention. Guseli went for a safe approach with a variety of increased height on his jumps finished off with an awesome 1440 spin that had both him and the crowd stoked.
He got another 79.95 for this line, which the commentators said seemed to be a bit below what they thought he should have got. This score secured Guseli’s spot in sixth place.
DMARGE got on the phone with Guseli to ask him what it was like making his Olympic debut just a few months after breaking his wrist.
Guseli told us it felt great.
“So good!” he told us. “Breaking my wrist at the start of this season was definitely a big shock and took a little bit of my confidence away. But once I got back into shredding I was so hyped to be back and I think that hype lead into the Olympics.”
We also picked Guseli’s brain on what it was like to break Shaun White’s record for the highest jump out of a halfpipe (which Guseli achieved when he was just 15 at Laax).
Guseli said that at the time, he didn’t even realize he had done it: “Well my friend Gustav Legnavsky who’s a skier from New Zealand and his dad organised a film crew and some guys who measured airs in the halfpipe to come to Laax to film/measure him going for the ski world record.”
“Me and him grew up riding in Laax together and both very much enjoy going high out of the pipe so he hit me up and let me tag along and give the snowboard record a go. We did a couple laps and I ended up getting it but didn’t know at the time because I thought the snowboard record was higher than it was.”
“As scary as it was, it was a very fun day.”Valentino Guseli
As the ABC reports, Guseli has described soaring above the halfpipe as follows: “It feels like flying. Really. Just looking down on the halfpipe.”
“As much as it is very dangerous, it’s a very peaceful place up there. You have to be very at peace with yourself.”Valentino Guseli
When he’s not snowboarding, Guseli can be found surfing (“today’s my first day back home and I just got out from a four-hour surf”), playing guitar and listening to music.
Watch this space.