High-flying Wanaka freestylers

Wanaka athletes took centre stage yesterday morning on one of New Zealand's best days in Winter Olympics history.

Only Annelise Coberger's silver medal 22 years ago eclipses the four top 10 finishes the New Zealand team has achieved in a single day in Sochi.

Just hours after Palmerston North speed skater Shane Dobbin's seventh place in the men's 10,000m, Wanaka siblings Jossi and Beau-James Wells finished fourth and sixth, respectively, in the men's freeski halfpipe final, with Lyndon Sheehan, also of Wanaka, ninth.

Sleet and snow falling at Rosa Khutor's Extreme Park halfpipe did not stop the Wanaka trio posting strong scores in their two qualifying runs to move through to the finals, with Jossi sitting fifth, Lyndon eighth and Beau-James 10th.

Lyndon's best score in the final competition was 72.60 and Beau-James' was 80.00.

Jossi executed high-end tricks with clean landings in his first finals run to earn a score of 85.60, which put him in third place at the end of the round. However, when Canadian Mike Riddle posted 90.60 on his second run, Jossi was pushed out of third and the pressure went on for the second run.

Unable to match his earlier finesse, Jossi's final score of 78.40 meant he just missed out on winning New Zealand's second Winter Olympics medal.

Ending his Sochi campaign after coming agonisingly close to the podium, Jossi had mixed feelings about the halfpipe result, which came five days after he finished 11th in the men's freeski slopestyle - his preferred event.

''To land those runs I did, I was really, really happy.

''To come fourth is pretty cool for me for a pipe event, I haven't really been riding a whole lot of pipe recently.''

Meanwhile, younger brother Beau-James was ecstatic with his result.

''I've never felt this good in my life. I just came sixth at the Olympics in halfpipe so I'm amazed, I'm so stoked. This is the No1 proudest moment I've ever had.''

Another Wells brother, Byron, who had a fourth-place finish at the Olympic test event in 2013, was forced to withdraw from the halfpipe event the day before because of an injury sustained in training.

Head park and pipe coach Tom Willmott praised the men's ''outstanding'' performances.

''It was a supreme team effort ... the guys held themselves together and focused on their own performances and pulled off fantastic runs. Personal bests all round, basically.''

Fellow Wanaka freeskier Janina Kuzma will compete in the women's halfpipe early tomorrow (NZ time).


Add a Comment