Ben Tudhope is embracing the pressure of being Australia’s leading medal hope at the Beijing Winter Paralympics.
Tudhope captured the world’s imagination when as a fresh-faced 14-year-old in Sochi, he became the youngest ever Winter Paralympian.
Now, still only 22, Tudhope enters his third games with a target on his back as the world’s No.1 para-snowboarder and red-hot World Cup form.
Not that the pressure fazes him.
“I’ve had time to be the one who was hunting at a young age at 14 and 18 at Sochi and Korea,” said Tudhope.
“But now heading into Beijing, I’m looking like I’m the one to be hunted by my competition.
“It is a lot of pressure but knowing that I have everyone around me supporting me and the Australians as well as everyone on the team there, I know I can handle the pressure on the day.”
Still the youngest member of Australia’s team, Tudhope, who has cerebral palsy, was named co-captain alongside Melissa Perrine, in a testament to his maturity amid a tough lead-in.
While the rest of Australia’s team, comprised of alpine para-skiers plus two sighted guides, were based in Austria since November, Tudhope has been training in Finland.
He trains alongside Finnish and Canadian rivals, under a Norwegian coach – a tight-knit group who’ve coined the nickname ‘Team Unicorn’.
Meanwhile during Australia’s snow season, amid COVID-19 border restrictions, Tudhope spent time training with Winter Olympians.
It’s made for a unique, but rewarding build-up.
“The preparation going into Beijing has been one of the most challenging but probably one of the most rewarding for years as well,” he said.
“It’s been a truly amazing journey to all the games and I definitely feel I have matured.
“I’m in the best mental place I have been, and I’ve trained both my body and mind to be as strong as possible heading into the Games.
“It’s a true blessing that I know what the Games are, I know how they are and how to cope with learning from my experiences from my previous games.
“That’s exactly what I want to do for Beijing is take what I’ve learned from both Sochi and Korea and deliver in these games.”
While Tudhope will be favourite in the snowboard cross and eyeing a medal in the banked slalom, he’s also determined to see his sport take centre stage.
“That would be an absolute special moment. It’d be a dream come true. A childhood dream come true. I’ve been dreaming of that for so long,” he said.
“But I know it’s actually quite brutal in the boarder cross and anyone of our competitors can win on the day.
“That’s a really cool thing as well, in para-snowboarding, is the sport has grown so much from Sochi and Korea to now and we are actually on the same course as the Olympic guys, or the same outline.
“To showcase how much progress there has been over the last eight years since our sport debuted at the Games, that’s one of my biggest goals. I can’t wait to show off how far our sport has come.”