Kuzma hopes example is set
Wanaka freeskier Janina Kuzma hopes her fifth-placing at the Winter Olympics will inspire the next generation of New Zealand freeskiers.
The 28-year-old chose the ideal time to turn in the best performance of her career, with women's freeski making its Olympic debut on the Rosa Khutor halfpipe yesterday.
Qualifying in eighth place, she showed no fear in the final, improving three places and producing New Zealand's fifth top 10 performance of the Sochi Games.
"Hopefully we'll get more people coming through the programme, and there will be more support for those guys," Kuzma said.
"There's so much talent in New Zealand and it would be great to see more young guys coming through. I think with these good results in the pipe and slopestyle that it will definitely happen."
Kuzma plans to continue to leading the way.
"I'll keep doing what I do everyday. Women hit their prime in their 30s with their freeskiing, I feel, so I don't think I've hit my prime yet and there's still some good results [to come] for me."
Kuzma progressed comfortably through to the finals in eighth place on the back of her first run of 73.8.
She had already qualified before starting her second run, but improved her score to 75.2 and then nailed her first run of the final with a 77.0 which shot her into first place midway through the reverse grid.
Sitting in fourth place before her final run, Kuzma said her focus was on putting in a good last performance rather than dreams of forcing her way onto the podium.
"I was just thinking about stomping my second run, pushing it a bit more, trying not to think about that stuff. With a judged sport, it's a little bit out of your control," she said.
"The game plan was to get one run down, stomp it and then try and change up the next run. I couldn't do that, which is a bit disappointing, but I'm still really happy with my result."
Frenchwoman Marie Martinod was the top qualifier, but she was forced into the silver medal position by two-time X Games champion Maddie Bowman, of the United States.
Several hours after her competition, having gone through drug testing and talked with her family back in New Zealand, Kuzma was still struggling to comprehend her fifth-placing.
"I wanted to make it through to the final, that was my plan, but I didn't think I'd end up in fifth place, I'm so excited right now. I'm just so shocked, I'm still trying to take it all in. I wasn't expecting that at all, I'm just so pumped," she said.
"It's been amazing. I've got so many friends and family around the world who have been sending me messages. I Skyped my family back at home and they are so happy for me. The love and support has been epic."
- The Southland Times