YOU want Olympic heartbreak? Try this for Olympic heartbreak.
You’ve got the nicest bloke in the world, a polite 19-year-old mogul skier called Matt Graham. Really nice kid, speaks well, clean cut, looks you in the eyes when he speaks.
You’ve got his family cheering slopeside with flags galore and a giant blow-up hand in the colours of the Australian flag.
There’s Mum Debbie, a schoolteacher. There’s dad Steve, a Holden dealer. There’s brother Dave and sisters Heidi and Eliza. And there’s Matt’s 18-year-old girlfriend Venessa.
She’s the sweetest little thing, a young lady from Woy Woy on the NSW Central Coast, braces still on her teeth. She doesn’t quite know what to say about the experience of watching her boyfriend competing at night-time in the Olympics on a mountain slope in Russia, so she says “It’s breathtaking”.
What else is there to say?
As Matt launches off for his first run, Dad sheds a tear, Mum jumps up and down, maybe to keep warm, maybe because she’s nervous, probably a bit of both. Their son is now a fully-fledged Olympian.
And what happens next is, young Matty Graham, who goes by the nickname of ”Mogul Matt”, skis like a dream.
He barely makes a mistake in any of the four runs he skis at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park high above Sochi. The Canadians end up running first and second because they’re just too good, too polished. Vancouver winner Alex Bilodeau repeats the dose.
But Matt never misses a beat. The whole night, he skis the sweetest runs you’ve ever seen. He’s not a big bloke, Matt Graham. He doesn’t pound the bumps. Glides through them, more like. But geez he’s smooth.
When the field is reduced from 29 to 20, Matt makes it with ease. Team-mates Dale Begg-Smith and Sam Hall are now eliminated.
The field narrows down from 20 to 12 and young Aussie Brodie Summers is just squeezed out in 13th place. But Matt’s in comfortably again.
The 12 remaining skiers now unleash their best, and Matt is right in the mix. It’s his best run of the night, perhaps his best ever.
Then the heartbreak comes. No game of Russian roulette was ever as cruel as that scoreboard. Matt Graham needs to be top six to make the superfinal.
But he is seventh. Seventh, by 0.01 of a point. The score is 23.32 to 23.31. If it was a horse racing finish it’d be a tenth of a pixel.
It has all come down to his time. Moguls is scored three ways and Graham scored better turns points and better air points than the American skier who came sixth. But his time down the course was literally a tick too slow.
To “miss out by that much is pretty heartbreaking,” he says afterwards. “But overall I’m pretty happy with my performance.”
So he should be
“I’ll get over it. Maybe if I just chucked my foot forward on the finish I would have got in, but yeah, that’s just the way it is.
“I’ve still got room to improve for the future, so that’s always good.”
That he does.
Mark Matt Graham guy down as an absolute superstar of the future. Remember that our homegrown winter superstars like Lydia Lassila and Torah Bright had medal-free Olympics before they struck gold.
This guy is the real deal, and the entire Graham clan is looking forward to Korea 2018.
“Look he’s just a champion in the making,” his dad Steve says.
OK, so dads tend to be a little biased with this sort of thing. But you can’t help thinking Steve Graham might be right.
“Look out Korea,” Steve Graham says.
“Look out a lot of bloody mogul courses between now and then. And we’re not going to wait until Korea, we want some wins before then.”