The World Cup season about to kick off in New Zealand
Cardrona, NZL - The world’s best freeskiers will be on hand at Cardrona Alpine Resort this weekend to compete in the fifth edition of the Audi quattro Winter Games New Zealand. With over 150 athletes ready to showcase their skills on one of the top halfpipes and the slopestyle course set-ups, the competitions in Cardrona will be the first of what is certain to be a thrilling 2017/18 FIS Freestyle Ski World Cup season - including the highly anticipated PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
Held every other year, the Audi quattro Winter Games NZ is one of the more unique winter sports events on the planet, with athletes from a multitude of sports including snowboarding, freestyle skiing, alpine skiing, cross country skiing, curling and hockey travelling from around the globe to take part in the biggest winter sports gathering in the Southern Hemisphere.
Slopestyle athletes ready to drop in first.
After long weeks of creative planning, tons of snow have being moved in and around Cardrona’s snowpark the past weeks to get everything ready for the slopestyle competition. With some of the top names in the sport present in Cardrona, there are plenty of reasons to get excited for this weekend’s action, and that stacked field of athletes, hungry for early qualification points for the upcoming Olympic Winter Games in Korea, have freeski fans everywhere expecting nothing less than a world-class competition in Cardrona.
In the ladies’ event watch out for Sarah Hoefflin (SUI) and Johanne Killi (NOR) who were the top World Cup contenders on last year’s slopestyle tour. Hoefflin’s globe win was likely the most dramatic of the 2016/2017 FIS Freestyle season, with the Swiss rider eking out the title by the barest of possible margins, topping Johanne Killi (NOR) by a single point.
Among the favourites for the win, also count in Killi’s teammate Tiril-Sjaastad Christiansen, who is coming back to competitive skiing from a knee injury that kept her sidelined for most of the last season. Taking into account her previous results in New Zealand, Christiansen will be looking to repeat her success from 2013 and 2015 and go for a ‘hat-trick” with another victory in 2017.
Going further down the starting list, count on some impressive stuff from the Estonian freeski star Kelly Sildaru. Despite her young age, Sildaru has already proved to be one of the most talented skiers in the world, taking huge wins at both X Games and Dew Tour, as well as the 2017 Junior World Championship gold medal in slopestyle at Chiesa in Valmalanco (ITA). While it will be Sildaru’s first-ever World Cup event she has a broad repertoire of tricks that without a doubt will put her in a place to compete for a top spot.
Finally let’s not forget about USA’s Maggie Voisin, Switzerland’s Giulia Tanno as well as Canada’s Dara Howell, Yuki Tsubota and Kim Lamarre - all big-time skiers hoping for a good results in the season’s first competition.
On the men’s side the big names keep on coming, with Mcrae Williams (USA) leading the way after an impressive season in which he managed not only to claim the overall slopestyle World Cup title, but also to clinch the victory at the FIS Freestyle Ski World Championships in Sierra Nevada. Williams was nothing if not efficient in 2016/17, as the stylish ripper from Park City put his stamp on the season while setting himself up nicely amongst a stacked US squad for a spot on the team for the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
The US Freeski team has brought more support for Williams in the likes of big guns Bobby Brown and Nick Goepper along a bunch of top young prospects willing to follow the successful path of their older teammates. However the job won’t be easy for US riders, as a slew of the top athletes from around the world will try to start the season on a high note.
With Henrik Harlaut and Jesper Tjader competing for Sweden, a super strong Swiss Freeski Team with Kai Mahler, Andri Ragettli and Elias Ambuehl leading the way, Canada’s Alex Bellemare and Alex Beaulieu-Marchand, as well as James Woods from Great Britain and Oystein Braaten from Norway all dropping in this weekend, it's anyone's guess what the final results will look like. The men’s competition has all the ingredients for an interesting and tight game of who’s who on the competition scene following the summer break.
The slopestyle riders will drop in on Saturday in the best-of-two qualifications runs. The finals are scheduled to take place on Sunday at 12:30 local time.
The halfpipe competition will take place next week. Qualifications will go down on Thursday, Aug 31 with the finals happening on Friday, Sep 1.
Live-scoring for Saturday's slopestyle qualification will be available here:
TV BROADCAST - SLOPESTYLE FINALS
ESTONIA - KANAL 12 - live at 3:30 CET
KOREA - SBS
ITALY - RAI SPORT - delayed at 15:55 CET
NEW ZEALAND - DUKE - live at 12:15 local time
USA - NBC - streaming on nbcsport.com