Rebecca Sinclair aims for top 8 finish in Sochi
Being a second-time Winter Olympian, New Zealand halfpipe snowboard competitor Bex Sinclair believes a top-eight finish is a realistic goal at the Games tonight.
Wanaka-based Sinclair, 22, has already experienced the Winter Olympics buzz at Vancouver in 2010 and has being in good form of late, including a second place finish this season at a World Cup event in Finland during December.
She says tactics will come more into the event than usual as it is being staged over just one day instead of the regular two.
"It means we have qualifying, semis and finals all on the same day so it is a bit of a test of endurance and stamina. Then it can become as much of a mental game as anything."
Sinclair understands that the top six qualifiers go directly through to the 12-person final so that is her initial aim.
"It's a matter of whether you keep something up your sleeve or go all out."
Each series includes three warm-up runs and two competition runs.
Sinclair finished 21st after qualifying 30th at Vancouver where, as an 18-year old, she felt at times overwhelmed, it being her first Games. A knee injury ruled her out for much of 2012 but she returned last year to perform well.
At Sochi she feels more settled and comfortable and when she spoke to Fairfax Media at the weekend she was looking forward to getting onto the course for practice.
Although New Zealand had been one of the first to arrive in the Games Village last week, Sinclair had not been allowed to get any unofficial practice runs in.
From her observations she felt the course was a little longer and steeper than the one she trains on regularly in New Zealand at Cardrona, near her Wanaka base.
"It looks pretty amazing from what I've seen. It should be easy to get speed up but kind of narrow, too."
The course has been built by New Zealander John Melville, who also constructed the half pipe at Cardrona, but Sinclair said she had not been privy to any special design secrets.
"I know he was involved in building the one at Vancouver and our coach has been in contact with him," she said.
Melville said the halfpipe was shaping as something special.
"The pipe is very long, very big and the lighting system is amazing. Everything about the place, the site here, is great."
Sinclair was expecting plenty of tough competition, none more so than from four-time Olympian American Kelly Clark, 30, a previous gold medal winner.
Sinclair said after the Games she would reassess her future on her return to New Zealand with some university studies beckoning after more than five years based at Wanaka chasing the snow seasons.