Queenslander Graham ‘Grits’ Brittain created history for Australia in November this year when he won bronze in the Street Luge Skateboarding at the World Skate Games in Argentina.
In doing so, he became the only Australian athlete at the Games to have a podium finish.
The Brisbane local also claimed the title of fastest run at the Games, after recording the quickest time of 1:14.20 in the qualifying runs.
While he was excited to win the bronze, Brittain said recording the fastest time in qualifying was the highlight of the event.
“I qualified fastest in the world and it was pretty amazing,” he said.
“I didn’t really know at first, I thought it was a nice clean run, but then I stood up at the end and walked over to where the times where and one guy turned to me and held his finger up to say ‘number 1’.
“That blew me away, I was so emotional, it was probably one of the best moments ever of my racing career.”
After a strong start to his World Skate Games experience, Brittain had to work his way through the rounds of the final, up against some exceptional international talent, including his mate and eventual gold medallist from America, Ryan Farmer.
A risky move in round three of the four-round final secured Brittain an opportunity to fight for a medal, after he overtook one of his competitors on the outside.
“When you qualify first, you get put in the first heat every time, so you get a lot of rest but it doesn’t allow you to see what everyone’s start is like,” Brittain explained.
“So luckily at one point, Ryan [Farmer] came up to me before I was about to start my race and he told me to watch out for the Peruvian because he’s got a good push on him. It was good of him to do that for me as we’re good friends and it helped a lot.
“As I pushed out, the Peruvian stayed with me and I realised we were in for a really good race.
“We came into the first corner and I’ve overtaken him on the outside, which in our sport is something you hardly ever do. It’s a bit of a cheeky move because you can very rarely pull it off well and I managed to pull it off really well, which gave me perfect position for the next corner which allowed me to win that heat and put me into the final.”
After consistently strong performances, Brittain said the final itself wasn’t his ideal race.
“The final was a bit of a miss,” he said, “I think I calmed down and cooled down a bit too much between my semi and my final.
“When it came down to the final, I think I missed the start by a fraction of a second, and from there I was last out of the gate and I knew I had to fight my way back. I tried my best to draft everyone down the hill and I was really making ground on Roberto [Marasca, from Italy] in silver but there wasn’t enough room and he just got me on the line.”
Looking back on his experience in Argentina, Brittain said he is proud of his bronze medal, and excited for future opportunities to go for gold.
“I was so stoked that I was able to do it for the country, to get us a run on the board and then I was just stoked for myself.
“When I qualified for first it kind of made me think that I could be the best in the world now.
“To get bronze, it makes me hungry for the 2024 World Skate Games in Italy. I know Italy will be a different world because a lot of the Europeans will be there, but it makes me want to stand up and train harder and know I have the potential to be the best.”
Aussie teammate Julian Slaney placed sixth in the qualifying and sixth in the final.
“I was really happy with sixth, and the racing was super intense,” Slaney said on his personal Instagram.
“Everyone was on an even playing field and the difference between first and sixth place after qualifying was only 1.3 seconds, so the difference between the top 6 was really close.
“To represent Australia was an experience of a lifetime and a huge congratulations to my co-rider form Australia, Graham.”
World Skate Games Street Luge Skateboarding Final Placings
1st Ryan Farmer (USA)
2nd Roberto Marasca (ITA)
3rd Graham Britton (AUS)