Kappl, Austria (11 March 2019) – The world’s premier junior freeride event will take place in Austria this week, with three NZ athletes featuring on the start list. Skiers Alistair Garland (Wanaka) and Henry Freeman and snowboarder Ronan Thompson (Wanaka) are en-route to Kappl, Austria for the Freeride Junior World Championship (FJWC) scheduled for March 13-15. There the best riders at the sport’s developmental level will be pushing to earn the Championship crown.
The FJWC is the most prestigious single event for the next generation of freeriders. While thousands of riders compete around the world at a multitude of events at regional and national levels, the FJWC brings the top 60 riders (30 ski men, 12 ski women, 12 snowboard men and 6 snowboard women), representing 14 nations and four continents, together for a single spectacular competition.
The FJWC is one of the best opportunities to see the top 15-18 year-old riders in action before they advance to the Freeride World Qualifier (FWQ), and for some, the Freeride World Tour (FWT). FWT riders such as NZ’s Craig Murray have passed through the Freeride Junior Tour ranks in the past.
Alistair Garland and Ronan Thompson currently top their respective category rankings, with Freeman currently in eighth place on the men's ski rankings, having all posted consistently strong results since the season kicked off in New Zealand in September 2018. Most recently, Thompson placed second and Garland third at the Nendaz Freeride Junior 3* in Switzerland over the weekend (9 March). With a big field of 120 riders and a strong American and Canadian presence at this European stop, Nendaz had the heaviest hitting field of the European 3* FJT events, essentially making it something of a dress rehearsal for the Junior Worlds.
Thompson won all three stops on the New Zealand Junior Freeride Tour before heading to Europe this winter and winning in Fieberbrunn, Austria and then Vallnord, Andorra. It marks an encouraging return to competition after a year off with injury. He explains:
“It was pretty awesome being on a winning streak after taking some time off snowboarding and competing. In 2016 I had the whole winter off after tearing my MCL and ACL overseas. I came back in 2017 and was loving riding more than ever but after two head injuries I decided to chill for the rest of the season and gave myself some time to find out what I wanted to do.”
What followed was a decision to change from the ‘park and pipe’ disciplines of slopestyle and halfpipe to focus on freeride.
“I had two friends Alistair Garland and Manu Barnard who have competed in freeride for a number of years. I started riding at Treble Cone with them and found out how fun it was, so I decided to start doing the comps and really fell in love with that side of the sport. Even though slope and pipe were awesome, I am so stoked I changed as find I’m having a lot of fun now and thoroughly enjoying just snowboarding a lot more!”
The goal is to “try and improve my run, start doing some bigger stuff and get more technical in competition” but ultimately “just keep shredding, trying to get better, having fun and hopefully keep the winning streak up.”
Alistair Garland has also been enjoying a career-best season and says, “It feels good to be sitting in the top spot after a successful NZ comp season, also having achieved a second place in the Fieberbrunn 3* FJT event.
“My main goal for this season is no doubt to win the Euro-Oceania Freeride Junior Tour, bettering my second place in 2018. To ski my best line in Junior Worlds would also be a hefty one, it’s an event like no other for us Juniors and to do well would really be a big achievement for me. All whilst having a good time, I’m loving skiing more than ever and can’t wait for what the rest of 2019 will bring.
“The excitement for the NZ season is especially high for me this year, moving onto the Freeride World Qualifiers is a big step and it’ll be interesting to see how I can match up against the solid skiers the Qualifying tour holds.”
Garland’s younger sister Phoebe was also due to compete at the Junior World Championships this week, having been awarded a wildcard after winning the New Zealand Junior Freeride tour. Unfortunately, she was injured whilst training for the Nendaz event and will not be able to compete.
Find the full list of qualified riders for the Freeride Junior World Championship here
The competition will be streamed live via FreerideWorldTour.com
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