Queenstown Olympian on the Sochi buzz

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Queenstown’s sole Kiwi team member at the Winter Olympics is buzzing from the experience so far.

Alpine ski racer Adam Barwood, 21, arrived in Sochi, Russia, for his first Olympics a day before last Friday’s opening ceremony – his slalom and Giant Slalom events are next week. 

Barwood, in a race field of about 90, tells Mountain Scene from the Games yesterday he’s feeling pretty good so far.

“Training has been going well and I have plenty of time to get some quality time on the hill and get used to everything.”

Barwood’s coach Nils Coberger is not with Barwood but has heard about the course and says it should suit the style of his young charge as it’s a tougher technical course.

“It’s quite a challenging Giant Slalom hill, perfect for Adam. Steep, very icy, that’s perfect because he’s such a good technical skier – having a rock-solid technique is really what you need on a course like that,” Coberger says.

“It’s a not a fat easy course where guys can just let it hang out.

“Someone with a solid technique like him is less likely to make a mistake.”

Barwood adds: “They actually have a really cool mountain. I’ve had a look at where they will set the race and think it should turn out well as long as it gets a little colder than it has been lately.”

Barwood, who is rooming with Kiwi skeleton racer Ben Sandford in the Olympic alpine village, says the opening ceremony was amazing: “Very cool moment walking into the stadium with the rest of the Kiwi team. Definitely something I will never forget.” 

The Kiwis, who include a strong Wanaka contingent, are right in the middle of the action, staying at the alpine village where freestyle and skier cross events are held.

“There is really only one place that most people go to eat, so you get to see everyone and it’s quite a friendly environment,” Barwood says.

His proud Queenstown-based parents plan to head to a bar in town to watch the first of his races – the Giant Slalom next Wednesday night.

Father Marty says it was a proud moment when Adam got selected and to see him on TV at the opening ceremony – and his son is really looking forward to competing.

Barwood helped cement his Olympic spot with a top-20 result, coming 12th, in a North American race in December – Olympic criteria required a top 80 ranking, which Barwood doesn’t have, or a top-20 finish in some North American events.

Coberger says even getting to this year’s Games was a great effort for Barwood who had originally been aiming for the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

“So to get this under his belt and get on the pathway to the next Olympics is sensational,” Coberger says, adding his young charge will be taking it all in his stride.

“Adam doesn’t get super-nervous when he competes. He’s a very level-headed calm guy. This is what he’s been training for. He’s probably a little excited, nervous [but] he probably just can’t wait to get out on the hill and get in the starting gate.

“A lot of people worry about the lead-up to events, some just embrace it – Adam will be like that, he’ll get after it, I’m confident he’ll do his best and I don’t think nerves will get the better of him.”