LAKE WANAKA, New Zealand (November 30, 2009) – The Freeski Association New Zealand (FSANZ) this week announced its Freeski Teams for 2009/2010, all six existing national team members remain at the helm as they continue to dominate on the world stage.
Seated Left to Right: Sam Smoothy, Mitchey Greig, Janina Kuzma, Lyndon Sheehan, Byron Wells, Jossi Wells
Mitchey Greig (21) of Queenstown is the only woman in New Zealand racing competitively at World Cup level in skier cross and has earned herself enough qualification criteria points to make the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver in February where Skier Cross will feature for the first time ever.
Big Mountain skier, Janina Kuzma (24) of Wanaka, showed us that she can do more than ski big mountains after a stellar Southern Hemisphere season where she took first place in both the Big Mountain/Freeride and Halfpipe competitions at the Volkl New Zealand Freeski Open as well as a first in Freeride and a second in Big Mountain/Freeride at the World Heli Challenge.
Kuzma heads to the Northern Hemisphere to compete in the Freeride World Tour Qualifiers where she garnered two first place finishes last year.
Lyndon Sheehan (21) of Wanaka leaves for the northern hemisphere with hopes that he will receive an invite to the prestigious X-Games and will continue to be successful on his path to becoming one of the best half-pipe skiers in the world.
Sheehan walked away this season with a fifth place in halfpipe at both the Volkl NZ Freeski Open and the inaugural Winter Games NZ where he was up against the world’s best.
After competing at a premiere level on the Freeride World Tour last year, Sam Smoothy (23) of Cromwell returned to the Southern Hemisphere where he took a first place at the Export Gold Extreme a second at the Volkl New Zealand Freeski Open and fourth place at the Black Diamond Big Mountain/Freeride competition.
Smoothy leaves for the Northern Hemisphere with a goal of qualifying for one of the 12 sports on the Freeride World Tour, he’s currently seated at number 30.
Last year, Byron Wells (17) of Wanaka, matched his brother Jossi’s record as the youngest athlete ever invited to the Winter X Games and barely missed a spot in the finals with a 10th place finish in halfpipe. His podiums this season included a first place at the Queenstown Winter Festival Rail Jam, a third place at the Parklife Rail Jam Invitational and a third place at the Winter Games NZ Big Air competition.
While pretty much everyone in New Zealand will know who Dan Carter is, some may not recognise the name Jossi Wells, however in the world of freeskiing and on the international stage Jossi is a legend.
In 2008 at the age of 18, Wells became the first New Zealander to win a medal at the world’s biggest freeski event, the Winter X Games.
Last year Wells walked away with a third overall in Slopestyle at the prestigious Dew Tour and was at the top of the podium for his Big Air performance at the Nippon Freeski Open in Japan.
Here in the Southern Hemisphere, Wells was honoured as the Central Otago Junior Sportsman of the Year, the Central Otago Supreme Sportsman of the Year, the Otago Junior Sportsperson of the Year, the New Zealand Freeskier of the Year and he was recipient of the Halberg/Westpac Trust Emerging Talent Award.
Wells continued to climb the podium taking first place in halfpipe at the Volkl NZ Freeski Open, first at the Parklife Rail Jam Invitational and a second in slopestyle at the NZ Winter Games.
The Wells brothers head to the Northern Hemisphere, together with their two younger brothers Beau and Jackson, with plans to once again compete together at the prestigious Winter X Games both in Europe and North America. Their competition calendar is full and includes the Dew Tour, Aspen Open, US Open, Dumont Cup and the Jon Invitational.
The New Zealand National Team is comprised of those at the pinnacle of International Freeskiing, gaining top ten results at international events. They positively represent and influence the sport of freeskiing on and off snow. They are committed as professional skiers and are respected by both their peers and public alike.
The makeup of the team is a world first, in that the team is selected across all disciplines including skier cross, big mountain, slopestyle and halfpipe.
The next tier down, the Development Squad, represents New Zealand’s rising talent. These members have been identified by the selection panel as skiers with potential to someday become members of the national team.
“We’ve decreased the size of the Development Squad this year taking it from 28 members to 18 so that we can provide greater benefits and support to those with the greatest potential of representing New Zealand on the international stage,” commented Adam Dooney, SSNZ’s Director of Coaching and Sport Development.
He went on to add, “We’ve added a third tier, the junior talent identification group, so that those young athletes showing promise are recognised and supported along their pathway.”
With the exception of Pete Oswald, all members of the development team are returning members.
2009/10 Development Team Members
Beau James Wells
younger development team athletes, Finn Bilous, Hank Bilous, and Elliott Mason have all been reassigned from the development team to the junior talent identification group, joining them are Sarah Albom, Tom Scurr and Jackson Wells.
Freeskiing continues to grow in scope and popularity around the world and is gaining recognition within the International Federation of Ski (FIS). New Zealand will host the first ever FIS Slopestyle competition at the upcoming Junior World Championships in August 2010. The X-Games has now added a European stop and in its second year the Dew Tour is already an overwhelming success.
FSANZ represents the sport of freeskiing in New Zealand across all Freeski disciplines. FSANZ is a member of Snow Sports New Zealand, the official governing body for snow sports in New Zealand.