SNOWBOARD: Australia is known for producing some of the world’s best snowboarders. In recent years Torah Bright and Holly Crawford have led the female freestyle charge with Olympic medals and World Titles between them.
Emily Arthur, 16, and Mahala Mullins, 17, are two of the next generation of inspired riders. Their selection on the Australian Youth Olympic Team, to compete in Slopestyle and Halfpipe at Lillehammer 2016 next month, is reward for working hard and chasing a dream.
“I’m stoked to be part of the Australian Team and the Youth Olympics, and really excited for the whole experience,” Mullins said when told of her selection.
Arthur has been targeting the Youth Olympics for a long time and is also thrilled.
“I am super excited about heading to Norway! I got the email last night and called my parents straight away, it's been a huge lead up and I'm just so excited to hear the good news!” Arthur said.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to represent Australia at the Olympics, and a few years ago when I found out that the Youth Olympics was a thing, I had a new goal I wanted to achieve, and I am over the moon that I can represent my country at such a worldly stage.”
Arthur remarkably competed against Bright at the 2015 World Championships where she finished 16th in the halfpipe as a 15-year-old.
“It’s crazy to think that she was at the World Champs when she was 15,” Bright said.
“That was about the same age that I was first starting to go overseas but I wasn’t doing anything like that at that age. Those types of experiences are invaluable.”
Arthur is happy with how her preparations are going for her next big international test.
“My preparation for Lillehammer is going really well!” Arthur said.
“I’m currently in Breckenridge, Colorado which is an amazing part of the world with all the facilities you could dream of. The Park and Pipe are both perfect every day and it has really helped me progress a lot this season.
The 16-year-old from Woronora Heights in Sydney knows many of the girls that she will be competing against.
“I think the level of competition in Lillehammer is going to be insane. I can't wait to see where I stack up against the best.”
Both girls will compete in the Halfpipe two hours from Lillehammer in Oslo and the Slopestyle event in Lillehammer. Arthur is better known for her results in the pipe and for Mullins Slopestyle is her passion.
Mullins started snowboarding when she was six at Falls Creek in Victoria and began training and competing when she was 13. Despite missing the 2015 Junior World Championships with an ankle injury she was still able to score enough points to earn selection.
“I’m in Colorado USA right now training with Transition Snowboard Camp, and off to California to do some competitions at the end of the month. Everything is going really well!”
She is juggling training and competing around the world with her studies in The Scots School Albury.
“I’m going to head home for a little bit before YOG so I can go to school. I’m having a less intense season this year because I am doing year 12 so I have to balance schoolwork and traveling and competition.”
Mullins knows her competitors are the best for their age in the world but she is only worrying about her own tricks and runs.
“I try to go into competitions aiming to land my run rather than aiming for a place. It’s pretty pointless to set goals on what other people are doing or on factors you can’t control. I’m really looking forward to a great YOG experience.”
Mullins is looking forward to the whole Youth Olympic Games experience of living in a Village, meeting athletes in all sports from around the world and participating in the Learn and Share education activities.
“It’s pretty exciting to represent Australia, and I think YOG is a particularly special event in the celebration of sport that is almost as significant as the competition. It’s also going to be cool to be a part of the team over there. I know and lived with a lot of the snowboarders, but it will be cool to meet the Australian athletes from other sports.”
The Slopestyle event made its Olympic debut at the first YOG in Innsbruck in 2012. Australian Alex Fitch excelled and won the bronze medal.
Along with snowboard, Australia will be represented in alpine skiing, freestyle skiing, cross country skiing, ice hockey (skills challenge), luge and short track skating.
The selection of Arthur and Mullins brings the number of athletes confirmed for Lillehammer as 14. There will be another three athletes confirmed in Ski Halfpipe and Cross Country in the coming days.
The Lillehammer Games will be the second Winter Youth Olympic Games, following on from Innsbruck in 2012. The 2016 version will include many of the venues from the Winter Games in 1994 with 1100 young athletes from 70 nations competing in 70 events. It will be a competition and education experience they will never forget.