The bulk of the New Zealand Olympic Team has arrived in Sochi, Russia today ahead of the first round of competition this week.
Park and pipe athletes including the snowboard slopestyle women’s team Shelley Gotlieb, Christy Prior, Rebecca Torr and Stefi Luxton, as well as freeskiers Lyndon Sheehan and Beau James and Jossi Wells were part of the 11-strong contingent of athletes that arrived in Sochi from an acclimatisation camp in Laaxton, Switzerland.
Welcomed first by their team mates with a gift of a traditional pounamu pendant, and then by the host nation at the formal flag raising ceremony, the athletes took their bearings in a new environment at the mountain village.
Shelley Gotlieb, who is one of the 12 first time Olympic athletes in the 15-strong team said it was hard to be prepared for what they would see on arrival. “It’s amazing,” she said. “considering there was almost nothing here a year ago. It’s unique, different, like going into a new world. The welcome from our teammates made us feel really connected and at home and the colourful, cultural flag raising ceremony was fantastic. ”
With just four days before the snowboard slopestyle team get into preliminary competition, the Gotlieb said the team would be looking to make the most of the next few days. “We’ll be training, getting used to our environment, taking in the courses we’ll be riding, the snow conditions and getting some good work done.”
The team had an initial look the slopestyle venue today ahead of the first Olympic training session tomorrow (eds, 3rd Feb).
Meanwhile Chef de Mission Peter Wardell has been in Sochi ten days and says transport, freight, performance systems and overall preparation was progressing well. “I’ve been here four times before, we’ve got good relationships with the organisers and were well planned. As a result we have got everything in place for our athletes arrival.”
Snowboard slopestyle competition begins on the 6th of February, snowboard halfpipe on the 12th and freeski on the 13th.
Down at the coastal cluster, sole speed skating athlete Shane Dobbin is well into training having arrived on 30 January. Alone in the village at the Sochi coastal cluster of venues, Dobbin is performing well in a series of time trial training sessions ahead of his 5,000m event on the 8th and then his major focus, the 10,000 on the 18th February.
Skeleton athletes Ben Sandford and Kathryn Eustace arrive tonight, Alpine skier Adam Barwood on the 5th and Byron Wells on the 6th, completing the arrivals for the New Zealand contingent in Russia.