Anna Willcox targets 2018 after missing out
New Zealand freeskier Anna Willcox has set her sights on a medal at the next Winter Olympics after finishing 15th in qualifying in Sochi last night.
The 21-year-old narrowly missed out on advancing to the slopestyle final, also held last night on the Rosa Khutor course, with the top 12 advancing, but was already looking ahead to the Pyeongchang Olympics in four years' time.
''I definitely have a hunger for it. I want to be on the podium at the 2018 Games. I've got so much to learn, I've been in the sport for not even an Olympic cycle so I'm going to have so much more to give in four years and I'm looking forward to representing the country again.''
Willcox put aside her nerves to record a solid opening run of 62.40 as the fourth rider away in her, and the sport's, Olympic debut.
It was good enough to place her on the bubble at the end of the first round, but, with several highly ranked skiers crashing in the opening round, she opted to step up her second round to try and get through to the final.
''It was a good day, the snow conditions were a bit tough, it was very soft so it became quite lumpy. Training didn't go perfectly, which is ok because it never really does and I managed to pull it together for my first run which I was really happy about,'' she said.
''I stepped it up on my second run and I held my rodeo five, but I couldn't really nail the landing because it was really tough conditions. I'm still really happy with where I came and happy with how I skied for New Zealand.''
Willcox's coach Peter Legnavsky said his charge had achieved her goal of placing in the top 16, just three years after taking up the sport.
''It was fantastic... she didn't hold anything back.''
The decision to gamble with a big second run instead of playing it safe in her Olympic debut was impressive, he said.
''I'm really proud of her for doing that, it shows a lot of fighting spirit. This is a real stepping stone for her and she passed with flying colours. She's the future of girls' slopestyle.''
Willcox said she would learn from her first taste of the Olympic Games.
''Definitely just taking the extra pressure. My phone has just been going off for the last week and you've just got to take that in your stride and know that everyone is backing you, but without feeling enormous pressure and losing the plot. That was probably the hardest part, taking all that attention you are getting and turning it into something good.''
There were several big name casualties during qualifying with reigning world and X Games champion Kaya Turski, from Canada, and 17-year-old German Lisa Zimmermann, the leading competitor on the FIS World Cup series, both suffering falls and failing to make it through to the final.
Top qualifier and world number one Dara Howell, of Canada, claimed her country's fourth gold medal with a stunning 94.20 run in the final, ahead of the United States' Devin Logan and Canada's Kim Lamarre.
- Fairfax Media
Has the New Zealand Olympic team been a disappointment so far at the Sochi Games?Related story: (See story)