Olympic qualification will be top priority for New Zealand’s best athletes when they contest the Winter Games in August.
The schedule for the Games, running from August 15-25, includes four FIS World Cup events and two Paralympic World Cup races, and are expected to attract a phalanx of the world’s best skiers and snowboarders.
New Zealand have class acts on the halfpipe and in slopestyle, such as brothers Jossie, Byron and Beau-James Wells, and Janina Kuzma and Anna Willcox with significant world rankings, so some podium placings aren’t out of the question.
But it’s the Olympics that matter right now.
Coronet Peak in Queenstown and nearby Cardrona resort will be the principal venues, after the Winter Games NZ decision to move snowboard and freeski slopestyle World Cup events away from Snow Park NZ.
“Following the questions around Snow Park NZ’s opening, it was important for us to provide our competitors with certainty around the competition and to this end we will have all four snowboard and freeski World Cups at Cardrona Alpine Resort,” Winter Games chief executive Arthur Klap said.
The Winter Olympics are in Sochi, Russia from February 7-23.
New Zealand officials are hoping to get about 14 athletes to Sochi in the snow sports disciplines. They have 12 national quota spots across freeski halfpipe and slopestyle and snowboard slopestyle, both men and women at present.
“Our key focus for the Winter Games is securing quota spots,” Snow Sports NZ’s high performance director Ashley Light said.
“I’d like to think we’ll get them so ideally you don’t need to chase World Cups to qualify. That leads to fatigue and you’re chasing your tail trying to qualify.”
The formula for being eligible for the Winter Olympics is a combination of a minimum of 100 FIS points plus a top 30 finish in a World Cup.
At present, New Zealand have four athletes who fit that category in freeski halfpipe.
Light knows the advantages for New Zealand athletes at the Winter Games.
“It’s our home turf, we know the terrain well. Cardrona is the home mountain for most of our guys, they get to sleep in their own beds, so it’s a great opportunity, at a low cost to the programme, to pick up good results.”
There are also hopes of securing three national spots for the Paralympics, which follow the able-bodied Olympics in Sochi next year.
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