After the wild weather of previous days, conditions mellowed but tricks remained intense for the freeski halfpipe at 100% Pure New Zealand Winter Games.
American skier Taylor Seaton took gold in the men’s competition with a score of 84.20 out of 100. Victory capped a successful NZ season for the Colorado resident following his second place in the Volkl NZ Freeski Open at the same venue nine days before.
The winner of that event, local favourite Jossi Wells, couldn’t repeat his success at Winter Games NZ and pulled out early into his first run. “It’s all part of the game,” he said, clearly disappointed not to put on a show for his home crowd. “I injured my knee in the slopestyle and knew after the first hit that it wasn’t going to hold up. Hopefully I can make it to the big air tomorrow.”
David Wise of the USA came second in the men’s event with 80.80 after nailing a double flare in his second run – one of the tricks of the day. This pushed Xavier Bertoni of France into third place by just 0.2 points. The reigning X-Games champion and current FIS world number two matched Wise’s back-to-back 9s but was just shaded out by the American’s style.
Lyndon Sheehan of Wanaka was the top Kiwi, flying into fifth place with a great first run. Jossi’s younger brothers Byron (17) and Beau-James – just 13 – finished 11th and 15th respectively. Olly Allan was 17th while Andy Bowie tied for last place with world number one Kevin Rolland from France who couldn’t land some huge tricks in the gusty conditions.
Taylor Seaton said this was his first win in a while, “The weather turned out good and this is definitely my best trip to New Zealand. Competing here means I can go home and start next season off real strong.”
In the women’s event, Swiss skier Mirjam Jaeger was a clear winner marking a successful return from injury. She scored 83.80, five points ahead of Rosalind Groenewoud. Fellow Canadian, Dania Assaly just edged FIS world number two Anais Caradeux from France out of the medals.
Mirjam Jaeger said, “I just feel great – what else is there to say? I’m super stoked right now. I love New Zealand. I’m definitely going to be back next year!”
Janina Kuzma was the highest placed New Zealand woman in 5th place, followed by Amy Sheehan (6th), Bridie-Anne Read (8th) and Hannah James (10th).
Head judge Phil Larose was impressed by the competition at Cardrona, “It went super well. Organisation here was really professional and the athletes felt very comfortable – as if they were competing at X-Games.
“Taylor pulled it all together today and ran really well from top to bottom. Despite the strong wind that held some competitors back he had great amplitude and wasn’t conservative.
“I’m really happy that the girls showed a lot of variety in their tricks today. We were looking for clean style, amplitude and a good choice of tricks. Mirjam showed she can ski clean and smooth and was an easy winner to pick.”
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For the final day of competition (30/08) at the 100% Pure New Zealand Winter Games, the spectators were treated to some Big Air. Despite high winds and rain, the crowds packed out the Coronet Peak deck to watch local freeskier names such as Jossi Wells and Beau-James Wells dominate the monster 85ft kicker, but it was 18-year-old Bobby Brown from the USA who struck gold with a double-cork 1080 mute, landing him an impressive 83.33 points.
“The jump was just perfect for me, I really enjoyed it,” he said. “The landing was soft and slushy, which made it difficult for some of the guys but you just have to make the most of it and I had a lot of fun. I’ll be heading back to Colorado very happy to have won.”
Head freeski judge Phil Larose said he was impressed with how the skiers battled the conditions.
“The weather was the big issue with only the ‘braves’ wanting to jump – it’s a risky game and it was scary seeing some of the riders overshoot due to the high winds. Because of the conditions none of the riders reached their full potential but Bobby Brown stole the show with his double cork 1080 mute,” he said.
Second place went to Sweden’s Kim Boberg who scored a total 74.67 points and in third place was local Byron Wells on 71.60 points. Crowds also went wild for 13-year-old Beau-James Wells and older brother Jossi Wells from Wanaka, with spectators filling out the restaurant and deck to catch the action.
Jacob McLeary, a freeski judge, was impressed with how well the riders performed.
“The riders were nervous at the start but in the end everyone enjoyed themselves and threw down some pretty big tricks. Bobby Brown was stand out and didn’t let the conditions get to him. It was testament to the high level of these athletes that they could still throw down very technical tricks, including double corks which are relatively new to the sport and not often seen in New Zealand.”
The women’s competitions in both freeski and snowboarding were unable to run due to weather.
Chris Schuster, Big Air Manager, helped make sure the riding conditions were as controlled as possible.
“It was disappointing we had to make adjustments to the start list as conditions were far from perfect. The riders, both skiers and snowboarders, made the best out of the conditions but were limited to what they could do,” he said.
“Working with Winter Games NZ has been great for a first-time event, helping get it off the ground – I’d be very excited to get involved again in the future.”
For more info about the NZ Winter Games, click here.