This Friday winter sports lovers the world over will be glued to their screens as the 22nd Winter Olympics and Para-Olympics kicks off in Sochi, Russia. Certainly in our home we will all be enthusiastic viewers.
The New Zealand Team
The New Zealand Winter Olympic Team consists of 15 very fine Kiwi specimens from our population of 4.4 million. How we manage to provide a training ground for international snow sport teams, yet our own home grown snow sport athletes have little financial backing, media limelight or national following is a whole other blog post. With tougher standards for selection this year perhaps we might see some medals, and perhaps a bigger following for these hard working and very talented athletes.
Eleven of our athletes are competing in the relatively new ‘free’ sports of halfpipe and slopestyle. For New Zealand at least we seem to have our strength in the more creative sports rather than the more traditional slalom and giant slalom. That certainly rings true in our family, where I prefer the giant sweeping turns, whereas my son is looking for the next jump. Is it our Kiwi characters coming our in our sporting preferences perhaps? Shying away from the traditional structure to something more push-the-limit.
Here they are:
Shelley Gotleib (women’s snowboard slopestyle)
Stefi Luxton (women’s snowboard slopestyle)
Christy Prior (women’s snowboard slopestyle)
Rebecca Torr (women’s snowboard slopestyle)
Rebecca Sinclair (snowboard halfpipe)
Jossi Wells (freeski halfpipe and slopestyle)
Byron Wells (freeski halfpipe and slopestyle)
Beau-James Wells (freeski halfpipe and slopestyle)
Janina Kuzma (women’s freeski halfpipe)
Lyndon Sheehan (men’s freeski halfpipe)
Anna Wilcox (women’s freeski slopestyle)
Shane Dobbin (long track speed skating)
Katharine Eustace (women’s skeleton)
Ben Sandford (men’s skeleton)
Adam Barwood (men’s slalom and giant slalom)
The Wells Brothers
Interestingly, three of the team happen to come from the same family – the Wells brothers, Jossi, Byron and Beau-James. This family interests me as I’ve read the odd snippets about them over the years in mainstream media. For a family of four brothers to have three of them in the New Zealand Olympic team is pretty impressive, especially when the New Zealand team has a total of just 15. The Wells brothers launched themselves onto the world stage when eldest son Jossi, now 23, at the tender age of nine years took on and won the incredibly dangerous New Zealand Rip Curl Heli Challenge when he was dropped off at the top of a mountain, skied down and was crowned as the victor by the judges. Calling Wanaka home, their parents Bruce and Stacey come from Australia and were lured here by the snows of Cardrona. Bruce, a qualified nurse and then builder/labourer has chaperoned his sons following the eternal winter between the hemispheres.
Little known to many who read the mainstream media, these Wells brothers have been local and international celebrities (Jossi has 26 thousand Facebook likes) within their snow sports and will be the ones to watch for medal prospects – or so I’ve read!
New sports to watch for at Sochi
There are 12 new sports in these Olympics, some are subtle changes to existing sports, like the Biathlon mixed relay, but these are the ones that I’ll be watching:
Figure skating team event
Ski slopestyle (Skiers combine airs and tricks on a 565m course featuring rails and a variety of jumps)
Snowboard slope style (The same as for ski slope style but with snowboarders and a slightly longer course)
Women’s ski jumping (the first time women have been will compete in ski jumping)