It’s hard to get one up on your big brother when he’s the reigning world champion.
But freeski wonderkid Byron Wells reckons a regular dose of sibling rivalry helps drive him on to new heights.
The 18-year-old halfpipe specialist is up against the world’s No 1 freeskier – his 20-year-old bro Jossi – in the Junior World Champs halfpipe at Cardrona on Sunday.
It’s the first time the Wanaka-based pair has battled against each other since March, when Byron pipped his older brother at the European X Games superpipe comp, taking fifth place ahead of Jossi’s sixth.
The Wells brothers – including other siblings Beau, 14, and Jackson, 12 – all strive to be as good, if not better, than the other, Byron says.
“We’ve definitely got the rivalry there but it’s brotherly…it’s not like a bad thing. I’m always kidding when I talk about beating Jossi.”
“So many times I’ve sat there thinking at a competition, ‘Yeah, you [Jossi] should do well’, but then I’m like, wait a second, if he does better then I’m going to do worse.”
Triple X Games medallist Jossi, who at 16 was the youngest freeskier invited to enter the prestigious comp, paved the way for the boys’ ambitions.
“He does something and I’m, ‘Oh, I need to do that’,” Byron says.
Last year Byron’s dream of also making X Games at 16 was realised – earning a respectable 10th place in the superpipe and impressing the freestyle industry. Now he features in freeski films and scores high at international events such as the Aspen Open, where he finished third place in the superpipe this year.
At the Junior Worlds slopestyle event at Snow Park last Monday, Byron was the highest-scoring Kiwi in claiming fifth place.
Jossi didn’t compete because of an ankle injury – but he’s expected to be OK for Sunday’s event. Younger brother Beau – who recently broke his collarbone – has also entered.
Byron reckons he’s shaking off the shadow of his superstar older brother. “It was hard for me to break out and make a name for myself.
“A lot of people would say, ‘Oh it’s Jossi’s brother’ and still I go up to a resort and kids will come up to me and say, ‘Are you pro? What’s your name? Oh, are you Jossi’s brother?’
“And I say, ‘No, actually, Jossi’s my brother’, and they look at me all confused.”