Top Scandinavian and French athletes are currently headlining the international entries for Audi quattro Winter Games NZ 2015 freeski events, which have again attracted the supreme Platinum level sanctioning from the Association of Freeskiing Professionals (AFP).
The AFP’s sanctioning for all freeski disciplines at August’s event – Halfpipe, Slopestyle and Big Air – reflects the high standard achieved by Winter Games NZ and positions it on the same level as the prestigious X Games, Dew Tour, USSA Grand Prix and the Jon Olsson Invitational.
“Every two years the AFP is pleased to sanction the Audi quattro Winter Games NZ as a Platinum event on the AFP World Tour,” said AFP Executive Director Eric Zerrenner.
“Winter Games NZ has a history of being a world-class event, attracting an elite field of freeskiers from around the world, looking to kick start the competitive freeskiing season with Platinum AFP points on the line. The athletes are stoked to attend as the event consistently meets or exceeds our sanctioning requirements – from course build and certified judging panel to athlete hospitality and media exposure. It’s a great way to start the season.”
AFP Platinum sanctioning is a major accolade for the Audi quattro Winter Games NZ, according to Sports Manager Iona Bentley.
“To have been granted Platinum status for the second consecutive event is the ultimate stamp of approval from the sport of freeskiing. Because it’s the highest level of sanctioning it means the winning athletes get maximum points on the AFP World Tour. To be considered for this status an event needs to attract the best athletes in the world, have the best courses, a fully certified panel of experienced judges and offer top prize money. We definitely tick all those boxes.”
Entries for the freeski events – the FIS Freestyle Ski World Cup Halfpipe and Slopestyle and the grand finale Winter Games NZ Big Air – which will be staged at Cardrona Alpine Resort are already shaping up as a who’s who of international freeskiing.
Red Bull sponsored athlete Tiril Sjaastad Christiansen of Norway who claimed gold in the women’s slopestyle at Audi quattro Winter Games 2013 and is a previous X Games gold medallist will be looking to repeat her last New Zealand performance after a long period off snow due to a knee injury.
Christiansen’s return to competition is expected to mark her return to domination of the women’s freeski circuit.
“It is certainly a coup for the Games to have Tiril back competing following her injury,” said Bentley. “She is such a high profile and competitive athlete and the spectators love watching her in action.”
The French freeski halfpipe team also brings a wealth of talent to the Games. The line-up includes Thomas Krief, Joffrey Pollet-Villard, Kevin Rolland and Benoit Valentin. Rolland is a multiple X Games medallist and finished second in halfpipe on the 2014 AFP World Tour, also taking out a bronze medal at the Sochi Winter Olympics.
Pollet-Villard’s claim to fame is setting a new world record for the highest amplitude achieved in superpipe on skis earlier this year (view the video here). He also won halfpipe silver at the FIS Freestyle Ski and Snowboarding World Championships 2015 in Kreischberg, Austria.
“Add to the mix other leading international athletes, including James ‘Woodsy’ Woods from Great Britain who is renowned for his skill and flair in slopestyle and who’ll be making a guest appearance as our MC for the freeski halfpipe competition, along with leading Australian slopestyler Russ Henshaw and the top Kiwis expected to compete such as the famous Wanaka Wells brothers – Jossi, Byron, Beau-James and Jackson and seven-times New Zealand Freeski Open champion Janina Kuzma – and we have a brilliant competition on our hands,” said Bentley.
The Big Air is the glamour fixture and will be the final event of the Games at Cardrona Alpine Resort on August 30, held just before the official closing ceremony.
“It’s fantastic for the Audi quattro Winter Games NZ to stage a freeski Big Air competition because it has such a great appeal for spectators,” said Bentley. “It’s one of the most popular disciplines at X Games and we’re pleased that, in spite of it not being included in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, we can put on a quality event with world class international and New Zealand athletes to equal any Olympic competition.”