WORLD’S BEST AT Winter Games
The Audi quattro Winter Games NZ is billed as one of the most prestigious international winter sports events outside the Winter Olympics and the 2017 event will showcase the most diverse sports programme since the inaugural Games in 2009.
Leading athletes from around the world will converge on Central Otago and Southern Lakes for this year’s Games scheduled for August 25 – September 9, many chasing coveted places representing their countries at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang in South Korea in February 2018.
Winter Games NZ CEO Arthur Klap says the 2017 Games will be a significant drawcard with a solid programme in place including two FIS Freeski and two FIS Snowboard World Cups at Cardrona Alpine Resort.
“For the first time ever all the ski areas in Central Otago—Coronet Peak, The Remarkables, Cardrona Alpine Resort, Treble Cone and the Snow Farm—will host events highlighting the region and enhancing the Games’ reputation for providing quality, international competition.”
Additions to this year’s traditional sports schedule of freeski and snowboard, alpine, para-alpine, cross-country and curling events include The North Face Frontier Big Mountain contest at The Remarkables, a Para-Snowboard World Cup Banked Slalom at Treble Cone and a three-test ice-hockey series between the Ice Blacks and Australia at the Queenstown Ice Arena.
The Frontier which is a 4* Freeride World Qualifier (FWQ) event will attract some of the world’s best freeride athletes including prominent Kiwi Sam Lee of Wanaka who took out the North Face Frontier last year, qualifying him for the 2017 Freeride World Tour (FWT).
Women’s titleholder Elizabeth Gerritsen of Switzerland is also expected to return to defend her 2016 title.
“One of Winter Games NZ’s major goals is to expose both Kiwi winter sports talent and the Southern Lakes region globally and by including the Frontier we can demonstrate the strength of New Zealand’s snowsports industry and its athletes,” says Klap.
The inclusion of international ice hockey in the 2017 schedule fulfils a long held ambition for Winter Games NZ organisers.
“It’s something we had in our initial planning,” says Klap, “but it’s taken until now to get it to fruition.
The fact that it is going ahead is thanks to the eff orts of both the New Zealand and Australian Ice Hockey Federations.”
Klap has signalled that the Trans-Tasman clash will become an integral part of future Audi quattro Winter Games NZ programmes.
“We hope, along with the Ice Hockey Federation, that this is something we can grow over the years with the Games providing the backdrop for the regular test series between the two countries.”
New Zealand’s best ice hockey talent will be on show during the series and NZ Ice Hockey League president Gunther Birgel says being off icially part of the Winter Games will raise awareness of the sport and give it a lot more exposure.
Adding para-snowboarding to the Winter Games NZ programme is a coup for the sport, according to Kiwi Paralympian Carl Murphy.
“With the growing popularity of snowboarding on the Paralympic schedule it’s awesome to see the Games host a World Cup right on my doorstep.
Lining up with the world’s best para-snowboarders with Wanaka in the background will be pretty motivating.
The Treble Cone event will be a key qualifier for many riders with the Olympics coming up in 2018.”
The FIS Snowboard and Freeski World Cups, featuring both slopestyle and halfpipe competition will put many top Kiwi athletes, who have clocked outstanding results in the Northern Hemisphere winter, on centre stage.
The Wanaka Wells family of Jossi, Byron, Beau-James and Jackson will fly the flag for New Zealand freeskiing along with other local athletes Miguel and Nico Porteous, Finn Bilous and Sochi Olympic women’s representative Janina Kuzma.
Snowboarding also has an elite New Zealand line-up in Tiarn Collins, Carlos Garcia-Knight and Sochi Olympian Christy Prior.
Up-and-coming 15-year-old Zoi Sadowski-Synott of Wanaka is earmarked as a top contender.
Curling mixed doubles makes its debut in Pyeongchang in 2018 and the demand for places at the Winter Games from high calibre teams from all over the world will create unprecedented competition at Naseby’s Maniototo International Ice Rink.
“With six of the top ten ranked teams in the world signed up, the talent on show and level of competition will be the best we have ever seen,” says Winter Games sports manager Iona Bentley.
“There is obviously pressure for high-quality competition in the lead up to the Winter Olympics and we’re in a great position to be able to host that given we are six months out from Pyeongchang.”
Highlights of the sixteen-day Winter Games NZ programme will be the opening ceremony at Coronet Peak featuring a dual slalom under flood lights contested by top internationally ranked alpine skiers while the closing ceremony at Cardrona, headlined by the FIS World Cup Snowboard Halfpipe, will be an absolute crowd puller, according to Klap.
“These ceremonies are spectacular and very much designed to involve spectators.
We encourage everyone, with an interest in winter sports or not, to make the eff ort to attend the opening and closing fixtures.
Both Coronet Peak and Cardrona are very accessible and the entertainment planned, along with the high standard of on-snow competition, will provide visitors with a memorable experience of the Winter Games NZ.”
Throughout the Games medal ceremonies, following each competition, will be held at individual venues which Klap says is yet another opportunity for the public to participate.
“With the Games being one of the last major competitions before the 2018 Winter Olympics world-class athletes will compete with leading Kiwis in a bid to gain valuable Olympic qualifying points.The award ceremonies are an unrivalled chance for people to ‘get up close and personal’ with some of the world’s best winter sportspeople as they appear on the podium.”