Kiwi role in skier's shock world title win

ON TOP OF THE WORLD: Tessa Worley is overcome after winning the gold medal at Schladming, Austria.
ON TOP OF THE WORLD: Tessa Worley is overcome after winning the gold medal at Schladming, Austria.

New Zealand has never won a medal at the world alpine skiing championships but it can take at least some of the credit for France's Tessa Worley's gold in the giant slalom at the FIS world champs at Schladming in Austria.

Last Friday, Worley, 23, won the giant slalom by a massive 1.12 seconds beating favourite and defending champion Tina Maze, of Slovenia, at the Planai skifield. Worley set up the medal-winning performance with a flawless first run of 1min 4.90sec forcing Maze to play catch-up in the final run.

Tessa's grandfather, retired Nelson GP Bob Worley, said from Austria this week that Tessa, 23, started skiing when she was a 2-year-old at Mt Lyford in North Canterbury. Tessa's parents, Nelson-born Steve Worley and French ski instructor Madeleine Chevellay, started a ski school at Lyford in North Canterbury in 1990 and worked for Ecole du Ski Francais in Maddy's home town in the northern hemisphere winter.

Bob Worley said his son learned to ski under the tutelage of Nelson Ski Club instructor Gary Askew at Mt Robert before qualifying as a ski instructor.

"They had Tess on skis in her second year and it soon became obvious that she was going to be a highly competitive racer," Bob Worley said.

Watching his granddaughter win the gold was a great thrill, Mr Worley said. The atmosphere on the skifield was electric with 25,000 spectators jammed into the grandstand, he said.

"Imagine being packed shoulder to shoulder into an open grandstand surrounded by 25,000 yelling, funny hat-wearing, horn blowing, flag waving, clacker twirling Austrians and Slovenians, all of whom were sure their girl was going to win," he said.

After winning the gold, Tessa Worley said: "It was a really hard and tough course. I felt very confident because I know I ski really well on difficult slopes, so I wanted to push hard and not make any mistakes."

She was third in the last World Championship held in Garmisch in 2011 and after making her debut at age 16, has now won seven World Cup races. It was the first time in 20 years that France has won a gold in the event.

The Nelson Mail