Audi quattro Winter Games NZ 2015 were officially launched at Coronet Peak near Queenstown tonight.
A huge crowd gathered for the opening which featured a world-class dual slalom under floodlights and saw US Sochi Winter Olympic gold medallists and World Champions Mikaela Shiffrin and Ted Ligety take out the honours.
The Coronet Peak Night Slalom was an overwhelming success according to Audi quattro Winter Games NZ CEO Arthur Klap who said organisers never imagined they would have such a stellar international field for the debut event.
“Not only did we have the two world champions here but the rest of the elite field was a who’s who of world ski racing. It was incredibly exciting for spectators and has showcased Coronet Peak and the opening of the Games internationally.”
It was an all American final for both the women’s and men’s races with Shiffrin defeating team mate Paula Moltzan and Ligety pushing US national slalom champion David Chodounsky into second place.
Shiffrin, who is the current world number one in slalom, said the head-to-head slalom was a “fantastic way to finish my camp in New Zealand. It was a tough race against Paula who is a very good skier but I am very excited to have won it.”
Ligety, the 2015 world giant slalom champion, also claimed he was lucky to beat Chodounsky who was quicker over the finish in the first run but had a bad start in the second.
“The dual slalom here at Coronet Peak was a very cool event,” said Ligety. “The conditions were great and it was a lot of fun being part of it.”
Both Shiffrin and Ligety received $15,000 cash each in the winner-takes-all event.
The recreational champions were Margie Slattery-Smith and Geoff Hunt both of Queenstown.
Athletes from all over the world joined VIPs and the local community for the opening which began with a ski down Coronet Peak’s shirtfront by young Queenstown Alpine Ski Team racers carrying flags of the countries represented at the Games. Coronet Peak ski instructors followed with flares lighting up the night sky.
A Maori welcome was followed by a kapa haka performance by a 60-strong group of Queenstown school children before the official part of the ceremony.
In his opening speech Audi quattro Winter Games NZ chairman Sir Eion Edgar said the trust managing the Games had fulfilled its 2009 vision to run a premier event. Winter Games NZ now rank as one of the world’s top five multi-discipline winter sports events.
He paid tribute to sponsors for their faith in the event and to the 500 volunteers who ensured its successful running.
Economic Development Minister the Hon Steven Joyce officially opened the Games noting that the Government was proud to support the Audi quattro Winter Games NZ through its Major Events Development Fund.
“We have supported it since 2009 and while it’s a marvellous event we are also involved because it really does lift New Zealand’s winter sports profile on the world stage. It’s a fantastic tribute to everyone who has helped get the event this far.”
The Minister for Sport the Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman officiated at the Coronet Peak Night Slalom’s awards ceremony before a spectacular fireworks display exploded across the mountain lighting up the valley below.
Audi quattro Winter Games NZ 2015 continues tomorrow morning (Saturday) with the FIS Snowboard World Cup Slopestyle finals at Cardrona near Wanaka. Start lists and results are available on the event website www.wintergamesnz.kiwi. The two downtown Games Villages in Queenstown and Wanaka are open daily from 3pm with live music and DJs, medal ceremonies, the Adventure Film Festival presented by GoPro and aprÃ©s ski hospitality.