Over 140 of New Zealand’s top snow and ice sport athletes are preparing to take on the best in the world at the 100% Pure New Zealand Winter Games which starts in just over two weeks.
For many, it will be their first taste of international competition while for others, the event provides an opportunity to compete in an elite international competition on their home turf while earning valuable points towards their world rankings.
Included in the New Zealand team are a number of Olympians such as snowboarders Rebecca Sinclair, Mitchell Brown and Kendall Brown who will all compete in the LG Snowboard FIS World Cup Halfpipe against a field that includes world number one, Nathan Johnstone (AUS) and world number two, Holly Crawford (AUS).
Tim Cafe and Benjamin Griffith both represented New Zealand at the 2010 Olympics in Alpine Skiing and they will take on a strong international field, include Norwegian gold and silver Olympic medallists Aksel Lund Svindal and Kjeitel Jansrud on the Slalom and Giant Slalom courses at Coronet Peak and the Super G course at Mt Hutt. Griffin and Cafe are joined by teammate Sarah Jarvis, Australasia’s highest ranked female alpine ski racer.
Winter Games NZ is unique in that it is the world’s only elite snow sports competition that features both able bodied and adaptive athletes competing over the same course. New Zealand’s gold medal Paralympian, Adam Hall, will race in all the Alpine Skiing disciplines at Coronet Peak and Mt Hutt.
The cross country events at Snow Farm, near Wanaka, are expected to be dominated by the Canadian and Russian teams, along with Olympic gold medallist Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) but Kiwi Olympian Benjamin Koons and Olympic biathlete Sarah Murphy will both enjoy home training ground advantage.
In the ice sports, Blake Skjellerup carries New Zealand’s best hopes of a medal after he made it through to the quarter finals in Vancouver 2010.
Other New Zealand athletes of note include former World Superpipe Champion and world number one ranked freeskier, Jossi Wells, who will compete in the first FIS Freeski Slopestyle since the announcement it will be included in the 2014 Winter Olympics. He will be joined in the freeski halfpipe event by teammate Janina Kuzma off the back of a very successful Northern Hemisphere season that saw her finish with a top three freeride world ranking. Her competition in the Winter Games NZ Halfpipe will include no less than four X Games gold and silver medallists, as well as current world number one Devin Logan (USA).
100% Pure New Zealand Winter Games, will feature 16 days (13-28 August 2011) of snow and ice sports and is expected to attract over 1,000 elite athletes from throughout the world to the most spectacular setting possible, New Zealand's Southern Alps. The audience reached in 2009 was 765 million, a target Winter Games NZ is aiming to at least equal in 2011 and also improve on in terms of where the television product is shown with more prime time slots.