Kiwis Head To Usa For Global Free Ski Battle
Kiwis Head To Usa For Global Free Ski
Seven of New Zealand’s top skiers will pit their skills against the best in the world during the US Freeskiing Open Championships in Vail, Colorado on 18-21 January.
The team includes current New Zealand national champion, Jossi Wells (15), together with his junior national champion brother, Byron (13). They are joined by fellow Wanaka siblings Lyndon (17) and Amy Sheehan, Pip Simmonds (Wellington), Charlie Anderson (Wanaka) and Charlie Lyons (Christchurch). This is the strongest contingent New Zealand has had at the event and leading hopeful, Jossi Wells, is in strong contention for a place in the top 10 out of a field of over 150.
“His performances in the past year have being world class and he has beaten some top internationals,” said team manager and mentor, Hamish Acland. “It’s not if but when he will break through into the big time. He’s been mixing it with the world’s pros for a good year and now, instead of seeing them as his idols, he sees them as the skiers he is aiming to beat”.
The US Freeskiing Open is the longest running and most prestigious freestyle event, attracting skiers from around the world, putting the world’s best against up-and-coming athletes. Each year the event finds the newest talent in freeskiing, propelling newcomers to pro status overnight.
For the first time this year the New Zealand team will benefit from traveling with Acland, New Zealand’s top big mountain skier, as well as coach Marty Jillings, giving them added confidence and support.
“I’m there to help the team keep the belief. It can be very intimidating when your fellow competitors have all these really visible supporters, from sponsors, managers, coaches, friends and family and you have, well, no-one but yourself,” said Acland. “With this support behind them, the individual is part of something greater. They are part of a Kiwi uprising taking New Zealand from minor to major on the world stage.”
Acland himself has just received an invitation to the Red Bull Snow Thrill of Monterosa in Italy, an elite event inviting only 20 of the world’s best.
“Its great, it really keeps the momentum on last season, and will raise my profile considerably which is really important for me right now as I need to gain some substantial sponsorship to allow me continue competing,” he said.
Acland will again compete on the prestigious Big Mountain World Tour with the first stop being in Snowbird, Utah on 1 February with the aim of improving his 2005 world ranking of fifth. He will be joined for the two European events on the Tour by Simon Guthrie (Dunedin), Kate McDougall (Wanaka), Sam Smoothy (Cromwell) and Tom Dunbar (Hanmer Springs). Dunbar placed second at the New Zealand Free Ski Open pre-qualifying for the World Tour events. The other athletes will battle it out with up to hundred other skiers in the qualifiers.