Josie Baff wins Australia’s first ever Winter Youth Olympic gold

The Winter Youth Olympic Games, Lausanne, Switzerland. Photo: OIS/Ben Queenborough.

History was made overnight in Lausanne, Switzerland as Aussie snowboarder Josie Baff won Australia’s first ever Winter Youth Olympic Games gold. The Jindabyne local scored first place podium in the Snowboard Cross at Lausanne 2020.

She claimed gold in a dramatic Big Final, edging out silver medal winner Margaux Herpin of France by just 0.05 seconds, with local Swiss favourite Anouk Doerig in third.

Baff’s historic win is Australia’s first Winter Youth Olympic gold medal, and Australia’s 7th individual Winter YOG medal (3 silver, 3 bronze from Innsbruck 2012 and Lillehammer 2016).

The young rider was consistently at the top of the pack, winning four of her five heats in the round robin format and topping her 8-person semi-final before winning gold in the Big Final.

Baff said she was “stoked” to win the gold, especially with the challenging round robin format that pushed the riders to their limits.

“I can’t believe it, it’s very overwhelming, very surreal,” Baff said after her win. “In the Big Final I had everyone come up behind me in the home straight and at the end I didn’t even know I had won until I looked back at the board, and then I burst into tears.”

“I was getting really tired because pumping through five heats is really hard, it’s way more races than I’ve ever done at an event. But the round robin format with the point system really separates and rewards the good, consistent riders, because it’s unlikely you’ll get lucky five times.”

Baff said the key to her success was celebrating the little wins but quickly clearing her mind to focus on the next race.

“Every time I got down, I had a little burst of excitement and joy, but then I pulled myself together on the T-bar and thought about what I had to do next,” she said.

“When I qualified for the semis I was like ‘the worst I can do is 8th – that’s insane’ and then after the semi when I realised I made it into the Big Final, I was almost in tears with my Mum, but I had to make sure I got myself back in check and not celebrate until the end.”

Baff has grown up on the snow, strapping on her first skis before she was two years old and taking up snowboarding aged just five.

Just days before arriving in Lausanne, Baff won boardercross bronze at the European Cup in Puy-Saint-Vincent, France against a much older and experienced field, boosting her confidence heading into Monday’s event.

Josie’s teammate, Finn Sadler, also qualified through to the men’s small final, placing 7th overall. Amber Essex just missed out on a semi-final berth, finishing in 10th place after the women’s heats.

The snowboard cross team will join the ski cross team for the Team Ski-Snowboard Cross event on Tuesday.

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Rachael Oakes-Ash is the name behind @misssnowitall and the founder of A long time travel and lifestyle journalist and ski writer, she's been published in ESPN, TIME, Wallpaper*, Action Asia, Inside Sport, Australian Financial Review, Emirates Open Skies, Conde Nast Traveler and more. She was the Fairfax snow blogger from 2007 to 2017 and the Southern Hemisphere editor for OnTheSnow. Rachael is also a documentary producer, author, radio announcer and humorist.