Kiwi snow athletes are mixing it in Winter Games finals, with some literally falling agonisingly close to podium spots.
Freestyle skier Lyndon Sheehan posted the second-highest qualifying run on the first day of the halfpipe at Cardrona last Friday. However, he couldn’t quite follow it up and just missed a medal in the prestigious World Cup event, coming in fourth with 76.4.
In the women’s, sole Kiwi finalist Janina Kuzma fell in the second half of her run finishing 10th overall.
A similar fate afflicted number one Kiwi alpine ski racer Ben Griffin in the Giant Slalom – he was in the bronze-medal spot after a first run in 52.70 seconds down the Coronet Peak course in Queenstown on Monday. Griffin was on track with a slick second run but he fell at the third-last gate.
The 26-year old recovered well to finish in 54.96, his total leaving him in a creditable fifth place. It was a personal best, will lower his world ranking of 212 and aid his campaign to get to the Winter Olympics in February, but Griffin was disappointed not to podium at home.
“Coronet Peak is my home ski area and that’s where you really want to ski well. I’m obviously pleased to have a personal best result but it was gutting to fall so close to the finish.”
Fellow Kiwi racer Nick Prebble, 20, came 14th with his own personal best and Queenstown’s Adam Barwood finished 21st and will also lower his world ranking of 427.
New Zealand snowboard slopestyle entrant Christy Prior didn’t quite fall but a patchy landing on her final hit killed her medal chances.
Prior, competing in Monday’s final at Cardrona, was looking good until the final kicker of the course when she agonisingly failed to land her jump cleanly.
However, her first run score of 61.75 was enough to take seventh. No other Kiwis made that final, with Shelly Gotlieb coming 22nd, Rebecca Torr notching 26th, Stefi Luxton in 33rd and Jasmin Gallop 42nd out of 46 starters.
Freeski slopestyle competitor Harry Pettit will be doing his best come tomorrow’s World Cup qualifiers up Cardrona.
The 20-year-old Queenstowner is in the best possible company heading into the event – he has two of the disciplines’ top overseas entrants, Australia’s Russ Henshaw and Sweden’s Oscar Sherlin, staying with him during the Games.
“The training has been good, the weather’s been frustrating over the last couple of days, but you can always go to the gym or do trampoline work … so I’ve been focusing on different aspects to help me and I’m feeling pretty good,” Pettit says.
“I’ve got some good athletes staying with me so that’s helping me in the right way. It’s really cool to see all these guys here, you see Shaun White and even though he’s a snowboarder he’s a bit of an idol in the snow industry.”
White, who injured an ankle in training at Cardrona earlier this week, is understood to have returned to the US to recover ahead of other Olympic lead-up events.