Winter Games important step in Olympic Games build up
A host of Kiwi athletes aiming to qualify and be selected for the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games will be in action during Winter Games New Zealand, held in the Southern Alps.
The Games run from August 25th to September 9th (or 10th if weather delay) with international points accrued to count towards potential Olympic Winter Games qualification.
Wanaka freeskier Finn Bilous is competing in halfpipe and slopestyle and is looking forward to taking on a field stacked full of the world’s top snow sports athletes.
"I'm really excited to be competing at Winter Games this year. It's always good to be on your home mountain in front of the home crowd and this year with it being pre-Olympics some of the best skiers and snowboarders are here and everyone will be pushing hard for points. It's going to be an awesome event and a good chance for Kiwis to see what our sport is all about."
Many New Zealand Snow Sports athletes are tracking well towards qualification and meeting Snow Sport New Zealand's nomination criteria including freeskiers Byron Wells, Miguel Porteous and Nico Porteous, as well as snowboard slopestyle athletes Zoi Sadowski-Synnott and Tiarn Collins. The men’s alpine team of Adam Barwood and Willis Feasey is also demonstrating consistent and strong results and challenging hard to meet nomination criteria.
Snowboard slopestyle athlete Christy Prior and freeskier Beau-James Wells will make their return from injury at Winter Games which presents them an opportunity to demonstrate they're back to form. Both Olympians have a proven ability to achieve podiums at premier events.
Freeskier Jossi Wells will miss the Winter Games as he recovers from a torn patella tendon. He is hoping to recover in time to qualify for the Olympic Winter Games.
Snow Sports New Zealand’s Performance Director Ashley Light says the games will be a key indicator of how New Zealand’s athletes are tracking with less than six months until the Olympic Winter Games.
“The New Zealand team regularly competes against the quality fields that we will see here in New Zealand for the Winter Games. The difference on this occasion is that we are on our own world-class competition venues. The home advantage includes the ability to sleep in your own bed, having the support of friends and family and keeping travel budget and costs low. The home advantage becomes a major component to allowing athletes to continue their qualifying journey for 2018.”
Athlete selection for the Olympic Winter Games team is expected to take place between late October and late January. The points athletes will earn at Winter Games count towards a ranking list which helps to determine qualification for the Olympic Winter Games.
In addition to meeting qualification standards, to be selected athletes must meet the requirements set out in their nomination criteria including demonstrating they’re capable of a top 16 placing at the Olympic Winter Games. Winter Games New Zealand is the start of the last competition block pre-Olympic Games.
The Olympic Winter Games qualifying period began August 1st 2016 and ends January 22nd 2018.
For PyeongChang 2018, New Zealand snow sports athletes are looking to qualify across a range of disciplines including snowboard big air, snowboard slopestyle, snowboard halfpipe, snowboard cross, freeski slopestyle, freeski halfpipe, ski cross and alpine events. Not all of these disciplines are on the Winter Games schedule so not all of New Zealand’s potential Olympic athletes will be competing. Likewise, New Zealand’s speedskaters and skeleton athletes will continue their qualification and selection journey through until January 2018 offshore.
The Olympic Winter Games take place in PyeongChang, South Korea from 9 - 25 February 2018. It is expected a team of around 20 New Zealand athletes will contest the Games.
Up to 95 nations and 3000 athletes will compete in 7 sports, 15 disciplines and 102 events in PyeongChang.