Winter athletes await 'da' for Russia

JESSICA MADDOCK IN WANAKA
Last updated 05:00 01/02/2013

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The countdown is on to the Winter Olympics, which start in Sochi, Russia, in just over a year.

Snow Sports New Zealand's Wanaka-based chief executive, Marty Toomey, said about 30 Kiwi athletes, most of whom trained at ski fields in the southern lakes area, were vying to qualify for the Olympics.

They were currently competing in qualifying events in the northern hemisphere, and January next year was the deadline for making the grade.

New disciplines have been included in next year's Olympics - ski slopestyle, snowboard slopestyle and free ski half-pipe.

This had made competing at the Games possible for a new group of athletes, Toomey said.

Other New Zealand athletes were hoping to take part in the free ski and snowboard events, skeleton, alpine and the long track ice speed skating.

Adaptive snow sports athletes would compete in the 2014 Winter Paralympics at Sochi in March.

Toomey said the pressure was on the athletes given only two northern hemisphere winters remained before the Olympics, which did not equate to many days with good skiing or snowboarding conditions.

New Zealand's strongest medal hopes were in the men's and women's park and pipe events, with several athletes highly ranked internationally.

Kiwis will be up against about 1000 athletes from 50 countries.

Snow Sports New Zealand's focus over the next year was to ensure the country's Olympic hopefuls had the coaching and funding to attend the qualifying events, one of which would be a "dummy Olympics" to test the Sochi facilities, and to make the trips as hassle-free as possible.

Queenstown Lakes and Central Otago residents have the opportunity to see the athletes compete in their own backyard from August 11 to 25, during the Winter Games.

Ski and snowboard events would be held at the Cardrona, Snow Farm and Coronet Peak ski areas, and possibly Mt Hutt, and the curling competition will take place in Naseby.

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- The Southland Times

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