Alex “Chumpy” Pullin insists a fiery attack from the father of fellow snowboarder Belle Brockhoff will not affect his chances of winning Australia’s breakthrough gold medal at the Sochi Olympics.
The snowboard cross was postponed for a day because of heavy fog, and rescheduled for a 5.30pm start on Tuesday (AEST).
But the real drama came on the eve of the race, after Bruce Brockhoff emailed an angry, rambling missive to Australian reporters, revealing he had sold his Sochi tickets because of bias towards Pullin.
“If Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin fails to deliver in the men's snowboard cross at Sochi Olympics tomorrow either by chance, bad luck or his ability (he is a bit rusty according to some commentators), there will be dozens of Aussies in the know ‘dancing on the graves’, so to speak, of Dean Gosper (deputy chairman Olympic Winter Institute of Australia), Geoff Lipshut (chief executive of the OWIA) and Ben Wordsworth (head coach of the AIS snowboard program),” wrote Brockhoff, who said he cancelled his tickets to Sochi because of the alleged double standards.
While the AOC is said to be furious about the timing of the email, Pullin was adamant it would not hurt his prospects of a medal when the event was held.
“To be honest, I’m focused on racing right now,” Pullin said. “I’m here to purely ride this course. Everyone is getting on fine. I haven’t been paying too much attention to anything back home and the media that’s been going on. I’m feeling good, everyone is getting on fine: me, Jarryd (Hughes) and Cam (Bolton).”
Brockhoff claimed more than $1 million had been invested in Pullin in the bid to win gold in Sochi.
His daughter, who finished eighth in the women’s event the previous day, is part of a splinter group called Team Outcast, which includes teammates Scotty James, Jarryd Hughes and Torah Bright.
“The Olympic Winter Institute of Australia and Australian Olympic Committee have, it is rumoured, spent at least $1 million dollars on Alex Pullin in the past four years, up to $1.35 million estimated by another concerned and involved dad,” Pullin said. "This far outweighs the $38,000 spent on my daughter Belle and the money spent by OWIA and AOC on Scotty James, Jarryd Hughes and Torah Bright.”
The AOC won't comment on Bruce Brockhoff’s attack until after Pullin’s race, but has said in the past funding is proportionate to their level of ability in the sport and some riders had chosen not to participate in institute programs.
Hughes had illuminated the deep division among the snowboarders in a comical pre-race interview after he refused to comment on the influence Pullin may have had on him.
Earlier, heavy fog around Rosa Khutor threw the event into disarray.
After a lengthy delay, the field was asked to assemble at the start line for training, but the official call then came through that it was going to be postponed.
Ironically, the fog started to lift after the call was made to abandon the race.
“Everyone was pretty pumped up to go but the weather was not really letting up at all,” Pullin said.
“It’s unfortunate. It’s really out of the control of everyone involved. The organisers did everything they could. They used snow guns to try to blow it away, which was pretty funny. They were literally doing all they could. Everyone wanted to race today. I don’t think anyone wants to put it off any longer. But it’s out of our control. What can you do? Everyone was holding on until the last moment."
After a slow inspection of the course, Pullin admitted it was too dangerous to race.
“At that point, visibility was terrible,” he said. “You couldn’t see the ramp on the last jump. You would’ve come out of the last turn and not know where to go at full speed, which was an obvious decision. Now we can see the conditions lift, and I would’ve raced now.”
Before the race, American opponent Nate Holland slammed Pullin’s decision not to race in the two months leading into Sochi.
“I think he’s been holding out waiting for this event and I think that is a horrible strategy,” he told NBC.com.
“It takes time to get used to riding in a pack of guys. You can ride the course by yourself all day long, but if you are not riding in a pack with a bunch of guys around you — it’s some next level stuff. You know, he is fast. He’s damn good. I don’t really agree with his strategy of not racing to not get hurt, but who knows.
The story Alex Pullin's snowboard cross event delayed at Sochi Winter Games first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.