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National Competition Launchpad For Global Success

National Competition Is Launchpad For Global Success

In freeskiing, like many things, New Zealand enjoys a level of talent disproportionate to its size. The number of New Zealand skiers who are making a mark in the fast-growing sport is impressive. Those numbers are likely to increase with the help, vision and encouragement of the Free Ski Association of New Zealand.

New Zealand is the only country outside of the United States with an organised Free Ski Association and a comprehensive national competition, which will be held in its complete format for the second time this month. This year, the Volkl Big Mountain event is a qualifier for the IFSA World Tour, making the Nationals not only a proving ground amongst New Zealanders but also a stepping stone to the International stage.

Hamish Acland, president of the New Zealand Freeski Association, says the sport is at a very exciting stage where it is growing rapidly and receiving recognition globally with the half pipe discipline also tipped to be an Olympic sport following its success at the X-Games in the USA.

“Four years ago this was just a national extreme skiing competition. Now, the advent of twin tips has revolutionised skiing and the top skiers not only ski extreme but they also go in the halfpipe and get air in the terrain park.”

For the first time, in 2002, the Free Ski Nationals consisted of all four events – slopestlye, skier x, halfpipe and big mountain. Hailed a huge success by all, it bought a new, younger demographic of skiers to the event. This year, the 2003 Free Ski Nationals (Nordica Slopestyle, Saab Salomon Skier X, K2 Halfpipe and Volkl Big Mountain) will include junior, youth, open and masters categories.

Acland says through the support of the general public and the industry, freeskiing has grown considerably in New Zealand with a number of notable youngsters coming up the ranks giving the older skiers a run for their money. These include Jossi Wells (13) and Lyndon Sheehan (15), both from Wanaka who will both be competing in the Championships.

Acland himself will not be defending his title of National Champion as he is still recovering from a broken pelvis from the end of last season. However, Sam Hazeldine and Todd Windle from Queenstown, two of New Zealand’s top big mountain skiers will be present as will Tom Dunbar (Hanmer Springs), Brad Prosser (Wellington) and Charlie Anderson (Wanaka), all of who are guaranteed to provide some spectacular skiing during the competition.

For the women, Kate McDougal is striving hard to fill the gap in Big Mountain skiing left by the likes of top international competitors Bridget Mead, Sarah Newman and Bridget Rayward. Rayward, however, will be aiming to keep her title in the competition she has dominated over the last 10 years.

Siblings Amy and Lyndon Sheehan, of Wanaka, will be competing. Lyndon, 14, has emerged as a top freeskier from the Cardrona freeski program.

Amy has proven to be is raising the level in the women’s competition, especially in the halfpipe event.

Acland is enthusiastic about the future of freeskiing.

“During the recent school holidays we were seeing heaps of kids on twin tip skis sliding rails and in the pipe. The image of skiing is once again youthful. Kids want to give it a go and that can only be good for the future of the sport.”

To help and encourage young talent FSANZ is also selecting the 14 most promising skiers from junior, youth and open divisions for development camp in September. Invited participants will receive coaching from top international and local coaches to help encourage the progression of these talented individuals.

The success of the FreeSki Association is built on the generous support of the ski industry.

“The Nationals could never have happened without the support of the industry, which in the last four years has taken notice of the increasing in skiers ‘skiing the whole mountain’, including pipes, parks and border cross courses. The future looks bright for freeskiing.”

The New Zealand Freeskiing Championships schedule is as follows: August 22 Nordica Slopestyle Remarkables 23 Saab Salomon Skier X Cardrona 24 K2 Halfpipe Cardrona 30 – 31 Volkl Big Mountain (01 Sept weather day) Remarkables Contact: Hamish Acland, President, FreeSki Association of New Zealand. Phone 021 689 410.
Registration forms available from: http://www.assid.co.nz/freeski/

And the following shops: Browns, Outside sports, NZ Shred, Base, Good Sports in Wanaka

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