Written by Dion Newport, Director NZ Junior Freeride Tour
Mt Olympus was the setting for the first stop of the New Zealand Junior Freeride Tour presented by The North Face. This is an epic location to begin the NZJFT circuit, with the latest lockdown in the worldwide pandemic. The crew waited patiently, when the our release date was set the trigger was pulled & the families involved made last minute plans to travel to Mt Olympus.
Nestled in the mountains of Canterbury, Mt Olympus has the slogan “playground of the gods” for good reason. The terrain is epic, the main lodge is plush and sleeps 60+ (limited to 50 with covid), there is a hot tub & a bar that matches prices of any bowling club. The atmosphere at this NZ club field is one in a million so with all of these luxuries in mind, it was fitting the opening event took place here.
The NZJFT is sanctioned by the prestigious Freeride World Tour, this tour will give the young riders involved a chance to earn points on the Freeride Junior Tour. In addition to earning points, some lucky riders will receive wildcards for the Freeride Junior World Championships held in Andorra in 2022.
There was a 50+ strong field on Saturday morning with some big name NZ juniors involved.
The two under 10 boys started the day pleasing all the spectators with some strong riding, Ben Wilton skied very strongly and took the title with an impressive run that will make the next category nervous.
The under 14 ski women category kicked off and the level was crazy, these girls skied really smart, linked runs, making the judges job hard. Michaela Bridgens came in third, Bailey MacKay 2nd and Poppy Freeman, the Mt Olympus star, continued her dominance in this category.
Next were the Under 14 ski men, this is always the biggest category and never fails to disappoints with the depth of this young category. 23 athletes filled this category and the judges were put to the test with this range to rank. Endless amazing runs flowed down the venue. This podium was hotly contended with Bede Dawson squeaking onto the podium in 3rd, Logan Millar taking the middle spot and Sam Hewitt (another Mt Olympus team member) taking the top spot with an outstanding run with a top score of 95 out of 100.
The next big category dropped, the Under 16 ski men. The Mt Olympus domination continued with Will Cookson taking third place, narrowly behind his brother Joe Cookson. There was another rider who was determined to take the title, Thomas Benson was a standout of the day and took the top spot on the podium. Thomas skied an incredible line, his technique was impeccable, he skied fast & put critical turns in where it counted.
Another stand-out performance was that of Timo Fitzpatrick. Although he was the lone snowboarder, he wowed the judges with stylish riding and an aggressive drop at the bottom of the venue in tricky snow.
The Under 18 women dropped in next and they did not disappoint with fluid, stunning skiing in this category. Amy Benson claimed the 3rd place closely over TNF athlete Lily Balsom. Georgia Chambers snuck into 2nd place closely behind Ruby Hewitt, who showed incredible control of her skis, confident line choice and sent her way into 1st place.
The Big boys went last and the crowd fell silent apart from the local MC’s who were excited to see their future competition coming through. Benjamin Pujol took the 3rd place spot with some smooth riding. Luke McConnel showed he has been following closely the NZ FWT riders with a line choice including a massive transfer at the top to claim the Moonlight Moment of the Day, unfortunately he came unstuck at the bottom and with that mistake, Cameron Marshall took the 1st place spot. Cameron showed clinical skiing technique, smooth line choice, a cheeky right 360 in the middle of his run and an impressive bottom air, flying the finish line and putting himself in the lead of the tour.
The most impressive thing on the day, was the attitudes of the competitors the families involved. Freeride is a tough sport when the conditions force delays & changes to schedules. Everyone in the NZJFT community were throwing down nothing but positive vibes. Amidst the adversity they were helping each other choose lines, eating way too much sugar and having a wonderful time!
The tour can only take place with the support of our sponsors. The North Face are this years title sponsor making the 2021 NZJFT possible. This industry leading brand has supported NZ freeride for decades so it was a organic fit this year.
Our supporting sponsors this year are Snow Sports New Zealand, Aotearoa Gaming Trust & Volkl Skis.
Our grass roots supporters are Jonel Hydraulics, Bay of Plenty Property Solutions, Bridgens Construction & Design, AJ Hackett, B.Effect, Moonlight Mountain Gear and Fusion Joinery.
Thank you so much Mt Olympus for hosting us and we look forward to the future of this event! We are off to the Remarkables this weekend for the final event of the tour, see you there!
10 months ago