Nickerson wins to open NZ Winter Games
A solid Continental Cup caliber field provided spectacular action on Coronet Peak as the Alpine Skiing competitions at the 100% Pure New Zealand Winter Games opened with the Australia New Zealand Continental Cup (ANC) men's giant slalom.
A blistering head-to-head battle saw the top ten separated by just over one second and the title going to Warner Nickerson of USA.
Nickerson clocked the fastest time of 50.07 in the first run to win with a final combined time of 1.46.20 just splits ahead of Austria's Marcel Mathis, who was fastest in the second run in 54.94, finishing 2nd in 1.46.29. Hard on their heels was Colby Granstrom of USA in 1.46.84 in third place, who edged out Jonathan Nordbotten of Norway in 1.46.85 and Stepan Zuev of Russia in 1.46.86.
The technically challenging 35 gate course, raced in clear, sunny and calm conditions, started on the top of the Hurdle, finishing in Eighth Basin. The first run was set by New Zealand national coach Nils Coberger and the second by coach Brad Sax of USA.
One hundred and two athletes from all over the world including Australia, Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Monaco, Norway, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and USA competed in the first run with 60 qualifiers making the cut for the second.
FIS ANC Committee Vice Chairman David Howden says the quality field presented a European Cup style event and was one of the best ever seen in New Zealand.
"Only about three seconds separated the first skier from the 60th after the first run and because of this a number of very good athletes missed the cut. It was an impressive race and for the first time in a New Zealand alpine event there was live timing on the FIS website which meant people all round the world could watch the race."
Nickerson who is currently ranked 33 in the world was upbeat about his win in the tough field. A regular competitor and podium finisher at Coronet Peak he skied like a demon to stamp his mark on the giant slalom title and will now compete in the Winter Games NZ ANC Cup Super G at Mt Hutt on August 27.
"I was pleased with the first run but the second was difficult. The snow didn't hold up super well and I just had to keep fighting it the whole way down. I did that and here I am in the winning spot. The Winter Games is a great opportunity for me to try and improve my world ranking."
The top seed Felix Neureuther of Germany could only achieve 18th place in 1.47.40 after finishing fifth in the first run. "The second run was not good for me I made a couple of mistakes. It was not the best for me."
Technical Delegate Germain Barrette of Canada paid tribute to Chief of Race Richard Murphy and his crew for the high standard of the race.
"It was a good points race for the athletes, with an almost minimum penalty. The organisation was great, really professional and the volunteers did their job well."