Sochi, Russia - (5 February 2014) – Conditions look perfect for day one of Olympic competition as four Kiwi snowboarders prepare to open the games for New Zealand tonight. (1400h Sochi, 2300h NZT).
Blue skies and still conditions in the Caucasus Mountains will greet the slopestyle team of Christy Prior, Shelley Gotlieb, Stefi Luxton and Rebecca ‘Possum’ Torr. Each must balance risk and reward on the challenging course.
Head coach Tom Willmott says the women are well prepared and, while each athlete is guaranteed to go on in competition which gets underway before the official opening of the Olympic Games on Friday, the women must assess the value of a direct run to the finals.
“The girls have been building momentum on a challenging course and they have the option of going all out and making the finals. On the flip side it’s about building confidence and staying in one piece.”
All competitors will advance beyond the first round and the top four in each heat will be awarded direct entry into the finals.
As a notoriously risky sport featuring jumps and rails that have consistently been described as some of the biggest on the international circuit, Willmott says tomorrow is about landing runs and each of the girls has a strategy in place.
For Possum Torr early nerves have subsided and she has put down her runs at training ahead of competition day. “It’s now about keeping the vibes positive and enjoying myself,” she said.
“That’s when I put down my best runs. I’ve just got to tell myself, it’s just like any other contest, but just with XXL jumps.”
Snowboard slopestyle is a new Olympic event.
All four New Zealand athletes will compete in heat one which takes place 1400 – 1444 Sochi time/ 2300 - 2344 NZ time.
The event will be broadcast live on SKY Sport.
“Sort the Men from the Boys” Jossi Wells
Meanwhile the Freeski slopestyle team of Jossi and Beau James Wells are half way through the training days available before their competition, and taking a clandestine approach as they fine tune tricks.
Jossi, 23, and the elder of the two Wells boys competing in slopestyle, is looking to attract maximum points from the slopestyle course judges. “I’ve got to think of something that no one else is going to do, stand out a little. I don’t want to unveil anything in public, you don’t want anyone else to copy it.”
After three days of training, the course continues to be challenging but is riding better and for Jossi it represents the high level of competition the Olympic Games demand.
“It’s not an easy course to get down, but this is the Olympics. It will sort the men from the boys, and that’s what you want in an Olympic Games. I'm looking forward to it.”
Men’s freeski slopestyle begins on 13th February.
The Sochi Olympic Winter Games take place 7 February.