Winter Paralympics: Ben Tudhope takes home Australia’s first medal in Beijing in para snowboard

Headshot of Catherine Healey
Catherine HealeyThe West Australian
Australian bronze medallist Ben Tudhope celebrates after the Men's Snowboard Cross SB-LL2 Big Final.
Camera IconAustralian bronze medallist Ben Tudhope celebrates after the Men's Snowboard Cross SB-LL2 Big Final. Credit: Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Ben Tudhope has claimed Australia’s first Winter Paralympics medal in Beijing, winning bronze in the men’s snowboard cross SB-LL race.

Tudhope, the world number one ranked para snowboarder, was off to a fast start, but a slight touch with Chinese rival Sun Qi cost the Aussie speed.

Tudhope managed to gain ground on eventual gold medallist Finland’s Matti Suur-Hamari to finish in third.

“I pushed and pushed and pushed, and I never gave up,” he told 7Sport.

“I thought I was gone at the start.

“It’s insane.”

The win means it is back-to-back Winter Paralympic gold for Suur-Hamari, after he claimed victory in 2018 in PyeongChang.

American Garrett Geros finished with silver.

It’s the first Paralympic medal for Tudhope, who became Australia’s youngest-ever Winter Paralympian when he debuted in Sochi in 2014 aged just 14.

The now 22-year-old Tudhope, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a baby, celebrated his medal with his ‘Team Unicorn’ friend, Suur-Hamari.

Gold medallist Matti Suur-Hamari of Team Finland (C), silver medallist Garrett Geros of Team United States (L) and bronze medallist Ben Tudhope of Team Australia.
Camera IconGold medallist Matti Suur-Hamari of Team Finland (C), silver medallist Garrett Geros of Team United States (L) and bronze medallist Ben Tudhope of Team Australia. Credit: Steph Chambers/Getty Images

The third Team Unicorn member, 2021 world championships gold medallist Alex Massie, failed to qualify for the final in a shock semi-final result.

Tudhope, Massie and Suur-Hamari joined together to form Team Unicorn while training under the late Mikko Wendelin as part of an elite international group.

“I dedicate this to everyone who has supported me along the way,” Tudhope said.

“I know I just wanted to do (Mikko) proud.

“To finally get a medal at the Paralympic Games is a true honour.

“I’m just living out my dream... it’s indescribable for me.”

The Beijing Games is Tudhope’s third Winter Paralympics appearance after his sister Annabel first introduced him to snowboarding back in 2009.

Ben Tudhope has won bronze in Beijing.
Camera IconBen Tudhope has won bronze in Beijing. Credit: SUPPLIED/Supplied
Ben Tudhope, centre and aged just 14, arrives from home from competing at the Sochi Paralympic Winter Games.
Camera IconBen Tudhope, centre and aged just 14, arrives from home from competing at the Sochi Paralympic Winter Games. Credit: Joe Castro/AAPIMAGE

Despite his young age, Tudhope was named co-team captain for Australia, alongside Melissa Perrine in Beijing.

The 22-year-old had promised to throw everything at the para snowboard final.

“I’m ready to send it tomorrow because that’s when it really counts,” Tudhope said after qualifying.

“It will be a new level from me, new level of riding but I know the whole field will (lift).”

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