Copper Mountain, Colorado (9 January 2013) – The Snow Sports New Zealand Park and Pipe Freeski and Snowboard team have opened their competition year for 2013 at an International Ski Federation (FIS) World Cup in Copper Mountain, Colorado. Competition began today with qualifying rounds in the men’s and women’s freeski halfpipe and men’s snowboard slopestyle with Wanaka’s Byron Wells qualifying for the freeski halfpipe finals.
The Copper Mountain event has attracted one of the biggest and deepest starting fields in World Cup history as athletes look to gain valuable FIS points necessary for Olympic qualifying. The Sprint US Grand Prix is making its debut on the FIS World Cup schedule in both freeskiing and snowboarding halfpipe and slopestyle. The Tour also holds a World Snowboard Tour 5 Star rating for snowboarding as well as the highest AFP (Association of Freeskiing Professionals) rating of Platinum for freeskiing in both halfpipe and slopestyle.
The Copper Mountain event was originally scheduled as the second stop on the three-stage Sprint US Grand Prix; however, the first event at Park City in December had to be postponed until February due to poor snow conditions.
Today’s men’s freeski halfpipe qualifications involved four heats with the top two placed competitors from each heat progressing through to the finals along with the next four best competitors overall, for a total of 12 finalists. After crashing in his first run, Byron Wells opted for a relatively conservative second run which saw him qualify first in his heat and sixth overall with a score of 88. Unfortunately he sustained a soft tissue injury which may prevent him from competing in Friday’s finals. A decision will be made closer to the time.
Jossi Wells was disappointed to miss out on finals qualification, finishing fifth in his heat with a score of 76 after crashing in his first run. Younger brother, Beau-James, finished sixth in his heat. He landed his first run but a riskier second run saw him push the envelope a little too far. Lyndon Sheehan suffered a similar fate; gaining confidence with a strong first run but coming unstuck in his second. Lyndon placed fourth in his heat with a score of 68.6. Despite some disappointment the New Zealand men were pleased to have all achieved top 50% results.
Competing in the women’s freeski halfpipe, Janina Kuzma opted to try out a new, riskier run but unfortunately the gamble didn’t pay off. Flat landings and a lack of amplitude led to a disappointing eighth place finish and a score of 62.3. The women’s field competed in two heats with the top four results from each heat and the next best four overall making the final cut.
Click here for results from the men's and women's freeski halfpipe heats
Stef Zeestraten had been aiming for a top 16 place in the men’s snowboarding slopestyle event; however a heavy fall in training and subsequent shoulder injury put paid to this goal. Despite landing both runs Zeestraten finished in 47th place overall. Ben Comber suffered crashes in both runs, finishing 78th, with Tim Herbert 51st.
Click here for results from the men's snowboard slopestyle heats
Tomorrow Jossi and Beau-James Wells will compete in the freeski slopestyle with brother Byron missing the event due to injury. Friday’s snowboard slopestyle will see Kiwis Stefi Luxton, Shelly Gotlieb and Rebecca ‘Possum’ Torr in action while Rose Battersby will compete in Saturday’s freeski slopestyle.