Flying seven feet above a halfpipe lip of a snowboard would terrify most people.
For the Canberra-born teenager Valentino Guseli, he finds peace here.
The 16-year-old will compete in Friday’s Olympic final alongside legends of the sport such as his teammate Scotty James and American Shaun White, who has won three golds from four games and is retiring after his fifth.
Just making it to the final is a huge achievement for the youngster, but Guseli sets no limit on how high he can fly.
Last year, he took White’s world record for the highest vertical, at 7.3 metres.
“It feels like flying, really like just looking down the halfpipe and as dangerous as it is, it’s a very peaceful place up there,” Guseli said.
“You know, you have to be very at peace with yourself to be able to go up there, because if there’s one little mistake, it can’t be very fun.”
After seeing the Australians in action in Thursday’s snowboardcross, Guseli trudged down to the bottom of the pipe and looked up.
He then dropped to his knees, as if to pray to the Olympian gods for a clean run on Friday.
Guseli qualified for the final in fifth place after recovering from a mistake in his first run, with James praising his prodigious skill.
James himself made his Olympic debut as a 15-year-old in Vancouver in 2010, but finished 21st.
Now 27, James welcomed the arrival of Guseli, giving the Australian contingent a serious two-pronged assault on the international stage.
“Val is amazing, he’s a super talented kid,” said gold medal favorite James.
“He came here, his first Olympics and he’s made it to the final, so it speaks for itself.
“He has a smile on his face which I always appreciate – he’s a nice guy and we have a great relationship and it’s exciting for Australian snowboarding to have him too.
“I’m excited to see it.”
Guseli was born in Canberra and lived in the country’s capital for 10 years before moving to Dalmeny in NSW.
His parents started snowboarding him around the age of 3 in Perisher, where he quickly fell in love with the sport.
Today’s final kicks off at 12:30 PM (AEDT) and is split into three runs.
- Run 1: 12:30 pm
- Run 2: 12:58 pm
- 3 run: 1.25 pm
The full list of qualifiers for the final is below, along with their best score:
- Ayumu Hirano (JPN) 93.25
- Scotty James (AUS) 91.25
- Ruka Hirano (JPN) 87.00
- Shaun White (US) 86.25
- Valentino Guseli (AUS) 85.75
- Totsuka Yuto (JPN) 84.50
- Taylor Gold (US) 83.50
- Jan Scherrer (SUI) 79.25
- Kaishu Hirano (JPN) 77.25
- Andre Hoeflich (GER) 75.00
- Patrick Burgener (SUI) 73.00
- Chase Josey (US) 69.50
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