Wells brothers set to be named in Games team
Three of Wanaka's celebrated free skiing Wells brothers are set to be among New Zealand's Winter Olympics team when it is named today.
The New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) will name their team for the Sochi Winter Olympics, which begins on February 7, this morning - with 14 athletes likely to get the call-up to represent their country in Russia.
Jossi, 23, Byron, 21, and Beau-James Wells, 19, are poised to represent New Zealand in the first ever free ski half-pipe event at the Winter Olympics, while the eldest two brothers will also compete in the free ski slope style event.
Both Jossi and Byron, who both compete in the Winter X-Games in Aspen, Colorado, this weekend, loom as New Zealand's best chances for a winter medal since Christchurch skier Annelise Coberger won silver in slalom at the 1992 Albertville Games.
Last week, the eldest Wells won gold in a FIS World Cup slope style event in Gstaad, Switzerland - an event that secured his spot in the discipline. He had been struggling with a heel injury.
Beau-James Wells will compete with his brothers in the half-pipe in Sochi, as will fellow Wanaka skier Lyndon Sheehan.
After the free ski team, Kiwi women's snowboarders offer New Zealand its next best chance at reaching the podium in Sochi.
Wanaka's Shelly Gotlieb, Kaukapakapa's Christy Prior, Ohakune's Stefi Luxton and Te Puke's Rebecca "Possum" Torr are set to compete in the first event Winter Olympics snowboard slope style event in Sochi.
Prior heads into the Games with the strongest form. The 25-year-old has enjoyed a strong rookie season on the pro tour, and won her last World Cup event in Stoneham, Canada earlier this week.
Auckland's Rebecca Sinclair is likely to represent New Zealand in the snowboard half-pipe in Sochi.
Alpine skiers Adam Barwood, of Queenstown, and Ben Griffin, of Whakapapa, look set for selection despite mixed seasons in the Northern Hemisphere.
Palmerston North speed skater Shane Dobbin, a veteran from the 2010 Vancouver Games, will meanwhile compete in the 5km and 10km events in Russia, while Wanaka's Katharine Eustace and Rotorua's Ben Sandford should compete in the womens' and men's skelton respectively in Sochi.
Short track speed skater Blake Skjellerup appears unlikely to be selected after finishing one spot out of the 32 instant qualification places for the 500m race.
Team chef de mission Peter Wardell arrived in Sochi this week to prepare for the arrival of the rest of Kiwi group next month.
He said the snow around Sochi looked "in good order" with a good base for ski and snowboard mountain events where New Zealand has its best chances of winning a medal.