This is the face of the man who hopes to make Olympic dreams come true for young Queenstown skiers.
James Lazor (pictured) is the well-connected American who, as Snow Sport New Zealand’s alpine director, has a long-term plan for young talent.
“I’m looking at a four-and-a-half and an eight-and-a-half year cycle,” he explains.
“The alpine ski programme has three individuals who might make the 2010 Olympics. I will now start to look to 2014, 2018 and provide a path as to how athletes can get up to that elite level.”
In his newly formed role with SSNZ, Lazor – a former ski racer – will set the “strategic direction” for ski racing.
While still finding his feet in understanding the “strategic direction”, he acknowledges the importance of grassroots skiing – and harnessing that to “breed” world-class athletes.
One idea he has is for all top ski racers to spend time coaching and mentoring emerging talent involved with training providers such as Queenstown Alpine Ski Team and Cardrona High Performance Centre.
“All those athletes came out of those programmes … so that’ll be a big part – having them give back a bit so the programmes get bigger and bigger.”
Lazor has an impressive CV – the Master of Business Administration graduate has also been operations director of the US Grand Prix, overseeing a Formula One event in Phoenix, Arizona.
He was also responsible for race logistics, rubbing shoulders with F1 superstars Nigel Mansell and the late triple world champ Ayrton Senna.
“I still have unbelievable contacts and great friends from Formula One.
“Part of my role with SSNZ is working with people I’ve known over the years – whether it be Formula One or skiing or business and trying to set up some partnerships that will help our athletes here.”
Lazor is conscious of the pressures ski racing can have on families supporting children up to the top level. “Like in any sport, there’s some financial cost to the parents.
“When they get to that next level, they have to go overseas [to train year-round] so you have that added cost of transportation and accommodation.
“Then it becomes a funding scenario – for parents to be able to provide opportunities for their child.
“Hopefully [SSNZ member organisation] Ski Racing NZ will help assist in some of that process.”
Thanks Mum, thanks Dad
Regular Queenstown families have to fork out big bucks on their children’s skiing or snowboarding dreams.
Take local swim coach Frank Wylie – he and wife Brenda haven’t had a family holiday with son Andrew for the past four years because they’re funding his Olympic hopes.
Andrew, 20, is one of New Zealand’s top ski racers, specialising in slalom, giant slalom and super G disciplines.
He recently returned from Europe with the NZ men’s team and attended the world junior champs.
Frank Wylie – who’s also a ski instructor at Coronet Peak with Brenda – says it’s “a huge expense” to send their only son overseas each year.
“It goes into the tens of thousands. It’s largely met by ourselves but we have been grateful for support in the past.
“To quote [father of fellow top young skier Tim Cafe] Wayne Cafe, I think we’re created a monster.
“Andrew’s been passionate about skiing ever since he was a young fella and he’s chasing his dream so you’ve got to do your best to support that.
“We’re trying to get support for Andrew to do well at the NZ Winter Games and do his best to get into the Olympics. If you know of any sponsors, tell them to get in touch – we’d welcome any support.”
Andrew is grateful for the sacrifices of his parents: “I wouldn’t have a show of doing it without them.”
Working for his sport
Laurie Taylor, 13, will spend his fourth winter away from his parents as he strives for ski racing glory.
The Winton lad arrives in Queenstown this weekend to start his second year in the Queenstown Alpine Ski Team.
Originally from southern England, Laurie recently returned from Europe after training with the British Ski Academy – and winning top placings at several international events.
“When I’m older I want to be a World Cup ski racer and get podiums, first, second and third,” he says.
Laurie – who studies by correspondence school and will live at the Otago Ski Lodge on Coronet Peak – is on the hunt for sponsors to help him get to national and regional races this season.
“It’s quite hard for us because we don’t have enough money to send me to Europe and up to Coronet Peak as well.”
Laurie’s prepared to work at the lodge in between training and school to earn money, his dad Nigel says.
“We would be grateful for any help that anyone can give to help get him to the races. Laurie comes from a normal family trying to support him to do an expensive sport.”