New Zealand Olympic team arrive in Sochi

The New Zealand team was one of the first to arrive at the Winter Olympics venue in Sochi, Russia.
The New Zealand team was one of the first to arrive at the Winter Olympics venue in Sochi, Russia.

The bulk of the New Zealand Olympic team has arrived in Sochi, Russia, ahead of the first round of competition this week.

Park and pipe athletes, including the snowboard slopestyle women's team of Shelley Gotlieb, Christy Prior, Rebecca Torr and Stefi Luxton, as well as freeskiers Lyndon Sheehan, Beau James and Jossi Wells were part of the 11-strong contingent that arrived in Sochi from an acclimatisation camp in Laaxton, Switzerland.

The athletes were welcomed by their team-mates with a pounamu pendant gift, and then by the host nation at the formal flag raising ceremony, before getting their bearings at the mountain village.

Shelley Gotlieb, one of the 12 first-time Olympic athletes in the 15-strong team, said it was hard to be prepared for what they saw on arrival.

"It's amazing, considering there was almost nothing here a year ago," she said.

"It's unique, different, like going into a new world. The welcome from our team-mates made us feel really connected and at home and the colourful, cultural flag raising ceremony was fantastic."

With just four days before the snowboard slopestyle team begin preliminary competition, Gotlieb said the team would be looking to make the most of tha time.

"We'll be training, getting used to our environment, taking in the courses we'll be riding, the snow conditions and getting some good work done."

The team had a look at the slopestyle venue ahead of the first Olympic training session yesterday.

Meanwhile, Chef de Mission Peter Wardell has been in Sochi 10 days and says transport, freight, performance systems and overall preparation was progressing well.

"I've been here four times before, we've got good relationships with the organisers and were well planned. As a result we have got everything in place for our athletes' arrival."

Sole speed skating athlete Shane Dobbin is well into training having arrived last week.

Skeleton athletes Ben Sandford and Kathryn Eustace, alpine skier Adam Barwood and Byron Wells will complete the arrivals in the coming days for the New Zealand contingent in Russia.

Fairfax Media