This event is the inaugural 100% pure New Zealand Winter Games and it starts TODAY.
The Games opened a few hours ago in front of over 1,000 spectators and the world’s media. A skydiver landing on the beach heralded the start of the opening, followed by 40 local school children arriving by jet boats across Lake Wakatipu, each carrying a flag of the 40 nations competing in the Games.
The rousing call of the putara (conch) called the crowds to attention for the start of the powhiri (welcome). The warriors of Kai Tahu issued a challenge to the visitors and placed a teka (dart) at the feet of Jean-Phillipe Roy of Canada who was representing the several hundred athletes present.
A quality field of top international athletes from 40 different countries have descended on South Island to take on New Zealand’s best winter sports athletes at the Games which take place from today,21st August – 30 August 2009.
Quite an impressive field have arrived: five-time Olympic medalist and current Olympic slalom champion Anja Paerson from Sweden, 2006 Olympic cross-country sprint gold medal winner Chandra Crawford from Canada, Japan’s former skier-X World Champion Hiroomi Takizawa plus Australian half-pipe snowboarders Nathan Johnstone – the current world number two – and Holly Crawford who finished runner-up in this year’s World Championships in Korea. Plus Germany’s top four snowboard-X riders, Canada’s top-ranked female skiers in slalom, giant slalom and Super G, and four-time Winter Olympian Patrik Jaerbyn from the Swedish Ski Team which also includes current national champions Andre Myhrer and Kajsa Kling. China is sending a large snowboard halfpipe contingent that includes current women’s world number one, Jiayu Liu.
Against this strong field New Zealand’s top freeskier and only Winter X-Games medalist, Jossi Wells, snowboarder James Hamilton, adaptive skier and Paralympian Adam Hall and cross-country skier Katherine Calder amongst others, and others, will be determined to show the rest of the world how the Kiwi’s do it!
The countries represented in these southern hemisphere winter games are: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Spain, Estonia, Finland, France, United Kingdom, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Sweden, Taipai, Ukraine, USA, Venzuala, South Africa…
“The strength and depth of competitors heading to New Zealand highlights the importance of the Games for athletes ahead of next year’s Winter Olympics in Vancouver,” said Winter Games NZ CEO, Arthur Klap. “For some it’s about sharpening their competitive edge during the northern hemisphere summer, whereas others will be going all out to gain World Cup points and qualify for their national squads.”
The Games will be taking part at Coronet Peak, The Remarkables (of which we have written before), Cardrona Alpine Resort, Snow Farm, Naseby and Dunedin.
It will feature disciplines of alpine skiing, free skiing, x-country skiing, snowboarding, curling, ice skating and adaptive snow sports as well as the demonstration sports of winter triathlon and natural luge.
Good luck to all and every one of you.