Freeskiing: Byron Wells back on track after recent leg injury

Byron Wells
Byron Wells
An encouraging fourth place at the FIS World Cup halfpipe in Russia has signalled that Wanaka's Byron Wells is back on track after a recent injury to his leg.

The halfpipe was part of the Winter Olympics test event 12 months before the 2014 Sochi Games at the new Extreme Park at Rosa Khutor.

The event was plagued by bad weather. The slopestyle was cancelled due to a lack of snow, and the halfipipe was first postponed and then affected by slow conditions.

Wells was only in his fourth day back on skis after a four-week injury break but did not hold back.

A crash and lost ski on his first run only encouraged him to aim higher, showing impressive amplitude on a second run which included switch 1080, right side 900, left side double cork 1260, and alley oop flat spin 5 into 900.

''I'm pleased with the overall result but disappointed with the way I skied,'' Wells said.

Two of Wells' brothers competed in the event. Jossi, who has also had injury problems this season, finished ninth, and Beau-James was 15th.

Fellow Wanaka athlete Lyndon Sheehan came 22nd.

In the women's event, New Zealand No 1 Janina Kuzma also took a cautious approach which unfortunately meant she missed out on finals qualification, finishing in 15th place.

The team's main focus is gaining Olympic qualifying spots under a quota system which requires athletes to be ranked within the top 40 in the world.

With Byron Wells, Jossi Wells, Beau-James Wells and Sheehan ranked within the top 30 for men's rankings, and Kuzma in the top 12 for women's rankings, New Zealand seems set to gain four men's and one women's spots.

The Sochi test event has also been an opportunity for New Zealand's top skeleton racers to check out their Olympic venue at a World Cup event.

Ben Sandford finished eighth in the men's event and Katharine Eustace 17th in the women's event.