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Backer expects Riegler will help young NZ skiers


Skier’s financial backer expects Riegler will help top young NZ skiers

The financial backer of world-ranked New Zealand slalom skier Claudia Riegler hopes the retired skier will put something back into the sport here.

Michael Watt, the London-based businessman who has bankrolled Riegler’s career for the last five years, said the retired skier was still a great asset to New Zealand skiing.

Riegler announced her retirement from all international skiing last week.

``It is to be hoped Claudia can do something for other young New Zealand skiers interested in competing at the highest level,’’ Watt said from London tonight.

``I have no regrets about supporting her. She gave it her best shot and I think retiring at this point was a wise decision.

``Her sport is a lot tougher these days than it used to be. The Eastern Bloc skiers have emerged on the scene with withering vengeance runs.’’

Watt said success on the world circuit to the Eastern European skiers was like hitting the jackpot. They were tougher, hungrier more ruthless, dedicated and very fierce competitors.

``Claudia gave it her best and she had some tough some tough years. She is looking around to assist young New Zealand skiers. I hope the New Zealand Ski Federation will be big enough to assist her and not become too territorial.’’

Watt provided Riegler with a six-figure draw down account every year for the last five years. He is considering backing another New Zealand sport with the Athens Olympic Games in mind. An announcement is likely within the next month. Riegler’s career included eight podium finishes in the World Cup – the last being a third placing in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, just before Christmas. Her four wins included three in the 1996-97 season – at Park City, Crans Montana, and Laax – when she was placed second over all in the cup slalom standings. She contested three Winter Olympics – Lillehammer 1994, Nagano 1998, and Salt Lake City 2002 – and collected a fourth placing at the 1996 world championships in Spain. Riegler will be back in New Zealand in mid-winter and will carry on as patron of the Coronet Peak 50K endurance race.

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