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The Winter Olympics campaign of Byron Wells is over before it even began, with the Wanaka freeskier pulling out of halfpipe competition in Sochi tomorrow morning due to a leg injury.
Wells suffered a bad landing attempting to complete a switch double alley-oop trick, practising for the Olympic halfpipe qualifiers at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park on Saturday morning (NZ time).
Wells, who is ranked 16th in the world in freeski halfpipe, immediately thought he broke his leg, though after receiving treatment at the athlete's medical centre in Sochi, this was found not to be the case.
However, Wells had suffered significant soft tissue damage, and, as of this morning, was still unable to put on a ski boot or walk - forcing him to make the decision to pull out of competition.
"I'm completely devastated," he said. "I had my sights set on a podium finish and was determined to get out there and do it."
Wells finished fourth at the Olympic test event in Sochi last February and represented New Zealand's best chance of a top finish in the event in Sochi.
The Sochi halfpipe has been criticised by some athletes for its dangerous nature, but Wells refused to blame the lie of the course for his injury.
"I have nothing bad to say about the pipe," he told Fairfax Media.
"The pipe was in perfect condition. I wouldn't have tried the trick otherwise. Things like this happen with this sport.
"If you don't land tricks, things can go wrong and can go pretty bad. "After looking at footage of me from crashing out, I'm wondering why I didn't break it. It's just part of what we do, and you've got to move on."
Byron wasn't the only Kiwi heading into freeski halfpipe competition carrying an injury.
Elder brother Jossi experienced a slight tweak in his knee during qualification for the slopestyle final last week, and Lyndon Sheehan has been out of action for four weeks after twisting his left knee in the FIS Freestyle World Cup event in Breckenridge, Colorado. Beau-James Wells is also due to compete tomorrow and has a full bill of health.
Sheehan, ranked 21st in the world, has trained on the Sochi halfpipe over the weekend and is confident his knee will be fine for competition tomorrow morning.
"My knee felt great, and the pipe was feeling really good," the Wanaka-based freeskier said. "I'm feeling pretty strong with it."
Sheehan, who finished 22nd at the Olympic test event last year, said the Kiwi freeski halfpipe quartet was not feeling increased pressure to perform in their event after a under-par Winter Olympic campaign for New Zealand so far.
"I don't think there is too much extra pressure," he said. "For us, this is another comp with the same competitors we are used to every other time.
"We just have to stay in that same kind of mindset, and not over-analyse things too much."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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