In the mountains of Lake Wanaka, New Zealand, elite skiers and riders representing twenty four nations are gearing up to compete in possibly, one of the biggest competitions of their lives. The FIS Snowboard and Freestyle Ski Halfpipe World Cups will be held at Cardrona Alpine Resort from 20-26 August 2012, attracting numerous highly qualified athletes.
Olympic medalists, World Cup Champions and Winter Games 2011 medalists all feature in the field of athletes competing in the first official event of the Olympic qualification period for Sochi, Russia in 2014. The upcoming event is this year’s only World Cup stop in the Southern Hemisphere, adding to the pressure placed on some of the competitors.
Top snowboarders who plan on competing in the halfpipe consist of Nathan Johnstone (AUS), current Bronze Olympic medal holder, finishing the 2011 season as the highest ranked halfpipe rider on the World Cup circuit; Ryo Aono (JPN), runner up of the 2011 World Cup circuit; and Arthur Longo (FRA), who placed third. Other competitors include Tore Holvik, Norway’s national champion and Dimi De Jong (NED) who currently stands third in the World Cup standings.
The women’s snowboard caliber is just as competitive, as its start list contains nine of the top ten Olympian athletes, including gold medalist, Torah Bright (AUS); silver medalist, Hannah Teter (USA) and Bronze medalist, Kelly Clark (USA). Last season’s World Cup halfpipe champion, Cai Wuetong (CHN), will also be competing, looking to defend her New Zealand World Cup title. Holly Crawford (AUS), 2011 World Cup series runner up and Stephanie Magiros (AUS) who is currently second on the TTR ranking, will also throw down at the world cup.
These international riders anticipate intense competition from New Zealand’s homegrown snowboarding talent as well. James Hamilton (Auckland), Mitchell Brown (Mr. Maunganui), and Ben Stewart (Christchurch) all plan on showing off New Zealand’s talent at the competition. Local contenders for top spots in the women’s competition include Mitchell’s sister, Kendall Brown (Mt. Maunganui) and Olympian Rebecca Sinclair (Wanaka).
The freeski athletes are entering a new era of competition as their points, for the first time ever, will count towards obtaining an Olympic spot! As of last April, the International Olympic Committee pronounced women’s and men’s halfpipe skiing an Olympic sport in the 2012 Winter Olympics. This revolutionary change in the world of skiing will ramp up even more action in this year’s Freestyle Ski Halfpipe World Cup.
Last season’s Freestyle Ski Halfpipe World Cup champion Benoit Valentin (FRA) will be competing this August alongside America’s talented freeskiers Torin Yater-Wallace and Gus Kenworthy, who placed first in the freestyle ski halfpipe of the 2011 Winter Games NZ. With the home-mountain advantage, Jossi Wells, the 2010 AFP Overall World Champion and holder of second at the 2011 Winter Games NZ, along with his brother Byron Wells, and Lyndon Sheehan will be skiing on behalf of New Zealand.
In the women’s freestyle ski competition, top freestyle skier Virginie Faivre (SUI), who stood 4th in the 2012 Winter X Games Europe Halfpipe, Kimmy Sharp (USA) and Manami Mitsuboshi (JPN) will be fighting for spots on the women’s podium. New Zealand’s Janina Kuzma (Wanaka), two-time Canadian Freeski Champion and two-time World Heli Challenge Champion, Amy Sheehan (Wanaka) and Rose Battersby (Taupo) will also be contributing to the extreme competition for the podium.
There will also be excitement off the mountain as the Winter Games Adventure Film Festival returns to Queenstown from the 24th to the 26th of August. The festival will offer an action packed program of stunning adventure films, getting everyone inspired for the World Cup.
The FIS Freestyle Ski Halfpipe World Cup will take place August 22nd while the FIS Snowboard Halfpipe World Cup will take place August 25-56, both at the Cardrona Alpine Resort. Given the aggressive turnout and Olympic importance, this year’s Halfpipe World Cup is sure to be packed with action and competition!