NZ's Wells brothers hope to catch that ski lift

BEN STANLEY
Last updated 05:02 16/02/2014
Wells brothers
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BAND OF BROTHERS: Jossi, Byron and Beau-James Wells at the ski village in Sochi. After disappointment in the slopestyle, the freeski halfpipe next week offers hope of better results.

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For years, the name Wells has summed up all that is good about Kiwis on snow. Fairfax Media finds out why - and looks at the chances of Jossi, Byron and Beau-James making history in the Olympic freeski halfpipe event in Sochi this week.

For the best part of the past decade, if you were doing it Wells on New Zealand snow, you were definitely doing it right.

Look at the successes of any Kiwi winter athletes over the past few years, and that name will keep reappearing.

Winter X Games titles in Aspen, Colorado. European Winter X Games medals in Tignes, France. De Tour and FIS World Cup victories. Awards. Sponsorship deals with top ski brands.

Eldest brother Jossi has claimed most of these, while Byron and Beau-James have nailed the odd title here and there.

Now the hype and expectation has followed them to Sochi - and the results thus far have definitely been mixed.

Sure, making the first-ever slopestyle final was a big step, but the eldest Wells' effort in it should be fairly questioned.

After a poor rails section in both runs in the final, Jossi showed only a hint of why all the attention, and talk of supreme skill, surrounds him.

A slightly tweaked knee during his final qualifying run may have a little to do with this - we'll know more come Wednesday, when he, Byron and Beau-James all compete in the halfpipe competition at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.

Don't expect that pressure to trouble Jossi. He knows the deal - and how to rise above it.

"I've spent a lot of time in this position - of people expecting stuff of me, as far as results go," the 23-year-old told the Sunday Star-Times.

"People recognise me on the streets, and I guess that stuff all becomes mundane at some point. I'm just using the God-given skill I have.

"I'm just fortunate having had the experience of being in that position [experiencing it all]. So when it comes to competition, it just feels like another day for me."

Putting the slopestyle finale aside, the Wells brothers have been in a good space in Sochi. Jossi and Beau-James, 18, have been rooming together in the athletes village, while their brother Byron, 21, is in the room next door.

The slopestylers had been hitting the training course day in, day out before Byron and father and coach Bruce arrived from the US.

Mum Stacey, who homeschooled her four boys in Wanaka so they could head up to Cardrona with their ski instructor father, landed in Russia on Thursday morning, while youngest brother Jackson has been watching the Games online back at the family's Breckenridge base.

Jossi said the presence of family was a lift. "If we can carry that momentum through into the contests, we're all going to do our best." That momentum wasn't there in the slopestyle - and no one was more gutted than Jossi.

But the halfpipe may right the ship for the Wellses, and for the entire Kiwi Winter Olympics team.

Byron crashed out during training yesterday morning, twisting his lower leg. Initially it was thought to be broken, but the 21-year-old has emerged healthy and is on track to fire up on Wednesday.

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Regardless of how the runs unfold then, Bruce Wells is proud of his sons' achievements.

"Every parent wants to see their kids succeed in whatever they do," he said.

"To watch my boys on the biggest stage in the world having an absolute blast, skiing well and representing their country, is just great. It's awesome. I am loving it."

KIWIS IN SOCHI ACTION

SECOND WEEK

Wednesday: Shane Dobbin (10km long track speed skating final) from 1.55am; Jossi, Byron and Beau-James Wells (men's freeski halfpipe) qualifying from 2.40am, final from 6.25am; Adam Barwood (giant slalom) first run from 7.55pm.

Friday: Janina Kuzma (women's freeski halfpipe) qualifying from 3.25am, final from 6.25am

- Sunday Star Times

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