Optimism despite boarders' failure to qualify

BEN STANLEY
Last updated 05:00 11/02/2014
Shelly Gotlieb
Getty Images
STRONG FUTURE: Shelly Gotlieb in action during the slopstyle semifinals.

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New Zealand's national snowboarding coach Tom Willmott believes Kiwis have a strong future in women's slopestyle in the Winter Olympics, despite the failure of the "Awesome Foursome" to reach the event's final in Sochi.

Shelly Gotlieb, Stefi Luxton and Rebecca Torr finished seventh, eighth and 10th in the slopestyle semi-finals on Sunday, missing out the top-four finish required to make the final, while Christy Prior had to be withdrawn from contending after getting concussed with practising just 45 minutes before competition.

While admitting that there was the "potential" for better results, Willmott said the experience of competing in the Winter Olympics would serve the group well for future top international competition.

"It's been a strong field [in the women's snowboard slopestyle]," Willmott told Fairfax Media.

"In the final, you had X Games gold medallists , previous world champions - it was the best of the best.

"But our girls stood up, and at different stages in the comp, they had their own highlights.

"As far as the final outcome, there was potential for us to achieve more. But in this sport, it all comes down to the day.

"I'm just happy we've walked away with four healthy people - some a little bit disappointed - but we'll be back to fight another day," Willmott said. "This experience will only be positive for the group, as a whole,"

While Gotlieb, who is 33, is unlikely to be around for the next Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang in 2018, the rest of the quartet should be in line for a return.

Prior, who is ranked seventh in the world, is 25, while Torr and Luxton are only 23 and 22.

Willmott talked up Prior as a young woman at the beginning of a "long and successful" snowboard career, while pointing out that Luxton's overall finish of 16th at Sochi was a significant result given her ranking coming into competition.

"I'm sure [Prior] will bounce back from this," he said.

"She has got a long and successful career in front of her. She perhaps might look back on this one as a bit of a glitch when it comes to major events

"Stefi worked her backside off all week long - and she has come into the event and had some fantastic performances," he said.

"Coming into the Olympics, she was ranked 24 out of the 24 competitors. For her to finish 16th overall is significant."

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Luxton said she would attempt to qualify for the next Winter Olympics over the next four years.

"I'm still pretty young, so hopefully I can make it to the next one - and the next one after that," she said.

"We're all going to try again, and progress in the next four years, Hopefully, we can come out bigger and better next time."

American favourite Jamie Anderson took out the gold in the final on Sunday night, while Finland's Enni Rukajarvi and Great Britain's Jenny Jones claimed silver and bronze.

- Fairfax Media

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