By TRACEY ROXBURGH
For Queenstown snowsports coach Sean Thompson, Friday night saw him win the triple crown.
The Aussie-born snowboard slopestyle and Big Air coach, whose athletes include Queenstowner Tiarn Collins and Wānaka’s Zoi Sadowski-Synnott, was at Dunedin’s Otago Polytechnic Hub to watch as Collins was named senior sportsman of the year, and Sadowski-Synnott took out the women’s crown, and the supreme award.
Fittingly, he was also named coach of the year.
Not bad for a guy from the Central Coast of New South Wales, who grew up surfing.
Thompson says his dad introduced him to snowboarding when he was about 16 — driving for six hours to get to his nearest skifield, Perisher — and he quickly fell in love with it.
‘‘There’s just something there that made me want it more … it’s been my whole life since.’’
His parents honeymooned in Queenstown in 1982, and Thompson came for his first visit in ’01, deciding he’d eventually relocate here, which he duly did in 2005 and then worked out how to make a career from snowboarding.
‘‘Mum led me into instructing, and so I went through a rookie programme at Coronet Peak and learnt how to become a snowboard instructor.’’
He spent seven years doing that before upskilling to become an examiner and trainer of instructors, which led into coaching, something he says he’s always ‘‘had a fascination with’’ since his early years surfing.
‘‘I guess I didn’t get the opportunities presented to me that I felt like would have helped my surfing.
‘‘I always wanted to give back in my sports, so it just fitted well.’’
He first worked with snowboarder Carlos Garcia Knight when he was just 13.
‘‘He went all the way to the Olympics and got fifth in PyeongChang.’’
Along the way he worked with multiple X Games medallist, European Open gold medallist and US Open champion snow boarder Christy Prior.
For the past seven years he’s coached Collins, who this year won the FIS Snowboard Crystal Globe, and Sadowski-Synnott’s been with him ‘‘on and off’’ over that period, but full-time for the past two or three years.
He also helps coach Queenstowner Cool Wakushima.
As he looks to the future of snowboarding in Queenstown, Thompson says he already feels like ‘‘we are a world leader, and that’s just going to continue to be the norm’’.
‘‘We’ve shown over the last few years that we’re a force in the competition realm, and people are starting to look to us more for where the bar is and how to do it so it’s pretty exciting.’’
Being used to sitting behind the scenes, Thompson says it was ‘‘super-special’’ to be recognised, but he was more stoked to share the stage with Collins and Sadowski-Synnott.
‘‘That was something I’ll never forget.’’
Meantime, the Wakatipu High School/Whakatipu Rowing Club’s under-16 boys’ coxed squad sculls, who won gold at the Maadi Cup, South Island secondary schools champs and South Island club champs, and took silver in the U18s at the club champs, won the ‘emerging talent team of the year’, beating out classmates the U17 girls’ coxed quad sculls, who also won gold at the Maadi Cup and South Island secondary schools, and the South Island junior champs, and Winter Games NZ boss Marty Toomey, chef de mission for the Beijing Winter Olympics, was named administrator of the year.