Flying Tomato signs for Winter Games

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Snowboarding superstar Shaun White (above) is returning for the Queenstown and Wanaka-based Winter Games next month. 

The reigning Winter Olympics snowboard halfpipe champion – often dubbed the ‘Flying Tomato’ for his boundary-pushing style and shock of long red hair – won gold in Vancouver 2010 after dominating at the inaugural Winter Games in 2009, six months prior. 

White will face tough competition at the Audi Quattro Winter Games which has elite competitors from more than 25 nationals confirmed so far. 

More are expected to be added to the list ahead of the August 15 kick-off, particularly with this year’s Games featuring a swag of prestigious World Cup events. 

Many athletes will be using the Winter Games as part of their build-up to the Winter Olympics at Sochi, Russia next February.

Winter Games NZ chief executive Arthur Klap says the quality of entries means this year’s event is shaping up to be the best so far.

“The 2013 Games is a vital stepping stone to Sochi and the importance of Olympic qualification is clearly attracting all the top names to New Zealand. I would expect many of the medal winners here in the Southern Alps to be on the podium in Russia next February and this is our chance to see them compete first hand.

“Shaun White’s performance at Winter Games NZ 2009 will long be remembered and it’s a testament to our position as one of the world’s top five winter sports events that he is scheduling a trip down under along with so many other top athletes as part of their Olympic preparations.”

Picture: Cameron Spencer, Getty Images