Eighteen-year-old Valentino Guseli was a standout at the recent 2023 Snow Australia Awards in Melbourne, appearing on the stage five times over the course of the evening after his record-breaking international season.
With four World Cup podiums and a Bakuriani 2023 World Championships silver medal from the 2022/23 season, the park and pipe snowboarder joined mogul skier Matt Graham as the joint Male Athlete of the Year.
He was also crowned Junior Athlete of the Year, alongside Junior Snowboard Cross Team World Champion Josie Baff. Guseli was presented with a generous cheque from XTM as a winner of the XTM Podium Incentive Scheme, and he can also start planning a relaxing holiday as a recipient of a Club Med Award.
However, perhaps the most memorable and emotional speech Guseli gave throughout the evening was in response to winning the prestigious Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin Outstanding Achievement Award, named in memory of the dual Snowboard Cross World Champion and three-time Olympian.
This season saw Guseli become the first snowboarder in history to achieve World Cup medals in all three park and pipe disciplines in a single season, earning him the overall Park & Pipe Crystal Globe, and Big Air Crystal Globe, while finishing second in the world rankings for snowboard halfpipe and third in slopestyle.
One of Guseli’s most ‘outstanding’ moments of the year came at the 2023 Bakuriani World Championships in Georgia, where a serious ankle injury put his World Championships campaign into doubt. Guseli overcame the crippling injury to secure halfpipe silver - only half a point off gold.
After already pulling out of the slopestyle and big air, Guseli said he didn’t know if he was going to be able to compete in the halfpipe, right up until the day of competition.
“It was a tough one, I had crashed on the last day of the slopestyle training and I instantly thought I had broken both my ankles, which isn’t a good feeling,” Guseli said.
“I had landed wrong and they were just burning, I couldn’t stand or walk or do anything. I had strapped pillows to my knees so I could kneel-walk or crawl across the floor to get to the bathroom.
“But I had a really amazing team around me who definitely helped me get back to normal and I was just so happy to be able to keep riding and doing what I love.”
The Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin Outstanding Achievement trophy was presented by 2022 award winner Tess Coady, who reflected on the significance of this award and the man it’s named after.
“This award carries a lot more than it did in previous years since it’s become attached to Chumpy’s name,” Coady said.
“He was my biggest idol growing up in snowboarding, he was like a superhero to me… and I feel incredibly lucky to have known him and incredibly grateful for everything he and his family did for me. They helped pave my snowboarding career and I really believe I wouldn’t be the snowboarder, and more importantly the person I am today, without him,” she said.
Upon receiving the award, Guseli reflected on the significant contribution Chumpy made to the international snow scene.
“He was a massive role model to everybody in the Australian snow industry and the snow industry in general,” Guseli said. “I know so many people overseas who I talk to about Chumpy and the legacy he’ll always have and I’m really honoured to have won this and I want to make him proud.”
At this stage of a park and pipe career, many athletes would be looking to specialise in one of the three disciplines, but Guseli says that’s not on the cards for him at the moment.
“The main reason I am doing all three [disciplines] is because I couldn’t decide which one I wanted to do… I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to decide so I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing!
“I had my best season yet this year and I enjoyed every bit of it… I just can’t wait to get back on snow again, to ride my board and shred and do what I was put on this earth to do.”
See all award winners from the 2023 Snow Australia Awards HERE.