Keen: It’s a gold medal for Games duo

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Take a bow Arthur Klap and Sir Eion Edgar.

The duo, who’re the brains behind the third instalment of the locally-held Winter Games NZ, have aimed high and had a direct hit.

They made a key decision after a strategy session following the 2011 event to only retain events in the programme which they felt had a good chance of attracting six of the top 10 athletes in the world.

Goodbye ice hockey, speed skating and figure skating.

Brutal maybe, but Klap and Edgar wanted the Winter Games to be one of the top three snow-based sporting events in the world – so only the best would do.

From that key move, a lot of good things have flowed – Government funding is up, more sponsors are on board, the athlete fields are world-class.

They’re so good that the United States team coach Mike Jankowski tells Mountain Scene (see cover story) the fields are actually “deeper” than the Olympics.

Basically, you have everyone who’ll be competing at the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics plus those who won’t get to go – but are still quality performers – because national quotas restrict team sizes. In fast-food terms, Klap and Edgar have basically ordered a Winter Olympics combo – and then upsized it.

That’s not to say the athletes are going to value a Games medal over an Olympic one, but the calibre of this local 10-day event has soared in a relatively short space of time.

Plus it’s not just great for our TV-friendly district – and Naseby which holds the curling competition – but a serious leg-up for Kiwi athletes.

It’s great to hear stories of Wakatipu competitors like Harry Pettit who was inspired by taking part in the Winter Games of 2009 to aim high.

Some of our competitors are world-beaters in events getting Olympic recognition for the first time next February in Sochi, Russia. Freeskiing and the world-famous Wells clan from Wanaka spring to mind.

And thanks to the top status of some Winter Games events, our athletes can now take steps toward qualifying right here.

In sport, there’s usually no better place to perform than in your own backyard on your home turf in front of your local fans.

Get out there and support them if you’re up Coronet Peak or Cardrona on event days – and if not there’s medal ceremonies and live music most days at the Games villages in downtown Queenstown and Wanaka plus a great off-mountain festival running simultaneously.

Let the Winter Games begin.