The good, the bad and the disappointing

Wanaka freeskier Jossi Wells with mother Stacey at the freeski slopestyle event at the 2014...
Wanaka freeskier Jossi Wells with mother Stacey at the freeski slopestyle event at the 2014 Winter Olympics, in Sochi. Photo supplied.
Proud mum Stacey Wells returned to Wanaka from her Winter Olympics ''adventure'' this week, with the highs and lows of her sons' Sochi campaigns still sinking in.

It was the first time Mrs Wells had travelled to see her freeskiing family compete internationally - usually she stays in Wanaka and watches live video streams - and the experience was well worth the journey, she told the Otago Daily Times yesterday.

''It was really exciting. Although you do get a better view sitting watching it on your computer or your TV ... it was just great to be there.''

Sons Jossi, Byron and Beau-James were in New Zealand's Olympic team, along with their father and coach Bruce. Youngest son Jackson was not old enough to qualify.

There was ''some good stuff and some bad stuff'' for the Wells boys in Sochi, but perhaps most heartbreaking was second-eldest son Byron's injury just days before the freeski halfpipe, which forced him to withdraw from competition.

''That was a horrible thing to happen to him. Very disheartening for all of us ... When you work hard for something for so many years towards one single day and then three days before you hurt yourself like that, it's pretty devastating.''

Byron was the strongest medal contender in halfpipe, the event in which brothers Jossi and Beau-James surpassed expectations and finished fourth and sixth, respectively.

''[Byron] actually skis better pipe than Jossi and Beau ... in every likelihood Byron would have been on the podium. So that all hurts as well.''

For Jossi, finishing 11th in his best event, the freeski slopestyle, was hugely disappointing.

However, he was largely unfazed by criticism from the New Zealand public over his decision to play it safe on the jumps after mistakes early in the run ruled him out of medal contention.

''He lets the whole publicity thing wash over him. I don't even know if he reads that stuff. He doesn't give much time to haters ... it's not in his character to do that,'' his mother said.

''I think the New Zealand public probably didn't quite understand how the scoring system works, so he copped a lot of flak from people thinking he gave up and he wasn't professional ... Jossi, for one, has never, ever been a person to give up.''

In fact, his three zero spins - taking off and landing backwards, no spinning - and the style with which he executed them, were lauded by the international freeskiing community.

''He does them the best in the world and everybody loves them and so for the public to look at that, it looks like he's just going over a jump and doing nothing, but it's actually a very, very technical trick.''

Finishing fourth in halfpipe, despite knee problems which prevented him from skiing halfpipe at all the past year, was ''amazing'' but bittersweet for Jossi.

''He came up to me at the end. He was calling over the fence. 'Hi Mum', he says. `Yeah I'm that guy, I'm that guy that came fourth' ... he was pleased, but there's always that 'fourth place - grrrr, so close but yet so far'.''

Beau-James, meanwhile, was still in delighted disbelief.

''We didn't even really think he'd make the Olympics this time.

When he got in we thought: 'That's fantastic'. And then when he made the final it was like: 'Wow, he made the final'. And then when he came sixth it was even more amazing.''

The prospect of having four sons at the 2018 Winter Olympics depended largely on whether Jossi's body could go the distance, Mrs Wells said.

''He wants to ski until he can't ski any longer, so if the old knees hold together for another four years, maybe.''

Byron returns to Wanaka on Monday, while his brothers and father remain in the northern hemisphere for coming events.



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