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NZ snow and ice sports emerge onto world stage



June 25, 2008


New Zealand snow and ice sports emerge onto world stage

The international success of New Zealand snowsport and skeleton athletes over the last year signals New Zealand’s emergence into world-level competition.

New Zealand’s elite winter athletes recently  finished their most successful northern hemisphere campaign ever.

Skiers, snowboarders and skeleton athletes representing New Zealand turned on world-class performances over several world championships in the United States and Europe in the last six months.

The results included three gold medals; Jossi Wells at the World Superpipe championships, Adam Hall at the World Cup for disabled skiers in France, and Ben Stewart won the US Junior snowboarding nationals.  Two silver and two bronze medals were also scooped up over the season.

Adam Hall is now ranked second in the world, but all of the 25 athletes who competed overseas improved their personal best times or rankings in their individual events.

The successes are the result of a co-ordinated national approach and global focus to wintersports, underpinned by increased coaching resources and consistent athlete support.

New Zealand Winter Sports Performance Director Ashley Light says New Zealand’s winter sports have never been in a better position.

“The success has been phenomenal.  These athletes have gained top podiums but have also chipped away at their world rankings, achieving personal success that in some cases has been outstanding.  It’s a season both athletes and coaches can be proud of,” he said.

“It’s clear the development of a formal winter sports programme for New Zealand over the last two years is powering the growth of these athletes; consistency and progression have been key to their achievements.”

The Winter Performance Programme, funded by SPARC, the Lion and Caversham Foundations, supports several winter sports, co-ordinating and providing coaching, sports science, medical and performance support to the elite winter athletes capable of world-class success.  Medals at the Winter Olympics are the focus.

Its fresh approach is leading edge and innovative by world standards.  A global focus has seen coaches contracted from UK, Australia and Germany, and partnerships with overseas teams developed to leverage expertise and resources. 

The programme’s also taken a ground-breaking approach to identifying the right talent to realise New Zealand’s performance potential, with three innovative  talent development and transfer projects under way.

Combined, it  is providing a level of service and co-ordination not seen by elite winter athletes in New Zealand before, and its innovation is achieving results.  With this kind of backing, athletes can focus on their own development without worrying about how to access services such as performance planning, skill development and analysis, physiotherapy and performance psychology.

 “The results speaking for themselves  Their success then becomes a springboard for further improvements, something we’re looking forward to in world-class competition in the southern hemisphere over the new few months and at the 2009 NZ Winter Games.

Results highlights include:

·         Free ski: Jossi Wells: Gold at World Superpipe championships and the Nippon Open Silver medal in slope style at the 2008 X Games.

·         Skier Cross:  Mitchey Greig, World Cup ranking: 18th;.   Best finish of 5th on Jeep tour, Sun Valley.  7th place at World Cup, Switzerland.

·         Snowboarding: James Hamilton: Bronze medal at the World Cup finals in Italy.

·         Snowboarding: Ben Stewart. Winner, US Junior Nationals.

·         Disabled Skiing: Adam Hall, Gold at the World Cup in France along with silver and bronze from the other World Cup events on the circuit. Currently ranked 2nd in the World.

·         Skeleton: Ben Sandford, 13th World Championships, 5th Placing at European World Cup.

·         Skeleton: Tionette Stoddard, best finish at a World Cup 7th and  17th  at World Championships.


About the Winter Performance Programme (WPP)

The Winter Performance Programme is a partnership between the New Zealand Academy of Spot South Island (NZAS SI), SPARC, and the NZ Olympic Committee.  It has Lion Foundation support for the Director’s role, and the Caversham Foundation investment for the Winter Sports “hub” based in Wanaka.


The programme is a concerted effort to enhance New Zealand's performance and profile in the Winter Olympic codes.  The primary aim is to provide competitors, coaches and their respective national sport organisations with technical assistance and advice to develop high performance programmes leading to Winter Olympic qualification.

Services are provided by NZAS SI staff, and include coaching support, sports medicine and sports science.  The programme is also responsible for co-ordinating the logistics, planning and travel for core overseas competition.

Investment is focused on the sports and the athletes who can realistically build to be within world top 10 in their sport. The current investment focus is freeskiing, snowboarding and skeleton. Ski racing and disabled skiing is also supported by the WPP.  Bobsleigh and long track speed skating are considered to be capable of delivering world podiums, so talent identification programmes are underway by SPARC to fast-track athletes into  world programmes.  In-line skaters are being transferred into Olympic long track ice- speed skating under this project.

SPARC has phased the investment and has set performance indicators to ensure athletes in these sports will be on target to perform at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games.

Other winter sports, including curling, may enter the programme into the future as world class athletes emerge from various National Sporting Organisation’s development programmes.

This NZAS SI initiative could easily realise the dream of New Zealand Winter sports people winning on the international stage, with athletes already tracking towards outstanding results in Vancouver 2010.

Development over 2007/08 includes:

·         Developed strategy for long-term success.

·         Key personnel appointed including sport science and medicine providers.

·         Talent transfer of in-line roller hockey world champions to ice speed skating underway.

·         Bobsleigh talent identification and transfer project underway.

·         Prime Minister Scholarship awarded to several winter athletes and coaches.

·         Communication and IT tools enhanced.

·         WPP confirmed as provider for Paralympics New Zealand’s winter athletes.

·         Tracking documents for Snowboard and Free ski completed, Vancouver Skeleton track athlete training requirements research project underway.

·         Benchmarking against US and Canadian programmes undertaken.




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