Published Thursday 28 November 2013

New Zealand’s Olympic winter athletes are heading into the final qualification phase for the Sochi 2014 Games as the countdown to the opening ceremony approaches 90 days. 

Some 20 Kiwi athletes will compete to secure international quota spots, meet selection criteria and earn their place in New Zealand Olympic history.

New Zealand Olympic Committee Chief Executive Officer Kereyn Smith says that the final months ahead of the Olympic Games are tough. “Our athletes must focus on delivering top performances in qualification events while also ensuring they are on track for Olympic competition.”

Having recently concluded a site visit to Sochi, Russia, she added that the host city was in the final stages of preparation ahead of the games. “The city of Sochi has been transformed. There are new roads, railway stations, hospitality infrastructure and numerous impressive competition venues and facilities. The scale of what has been done is significant. While time now is of the essence, I have confidence that the Russian organisers have the capacity and resources to host a spectacular games.”

Winter Performance Programme Director Ashley Light says there is a significant amount of work to be done in the final three months before the Olympic Games. 

“We’re pleased to have eleven spots qualified for the park and pipe athletes however we must retain these while looking to qualify additional places. Athletes also have to meet the New Zealand Olympic Committee 50/50/50 selection criteria.”

November sees New Zealand short track speed skater Blake Skjellerup compete in two do-or-die qualification events to secure one of just 36 national spots available in Olympic short track speed skating, beginning in Torino, Italy, this weekend. 

Long track speed skater Shane Dobbin also gets underway contesting four crucial qualifiers in November and December looking for top 16 performances in both the 10,000m and 5,000m events.

Freeski and snowboard athletes are enjoying their final weeks of a New Zealand spring before they depart for the US and the Copper Mountain World Cup in Colorado, USA, taking place mid-December.

New Zealand’s curling team take part in a repercharge event finishing on December 22 that will see just two of the ten competing teams earn a spot at the Olympic Games. Biathlete Sarah Murphy begins a series of three knock-out competitions in December. Ben Sandford and Katharine Eustace compete throughout December and early January in men’s and women’s skeleton.

Athletes must qualify national quota spots set by their International Federations as well as meet the New Zealand Olympic Committee selection criteria. This criteria states that athletes must compete in 50% of available World Cup qualifying events and finish in the top half of the field at 50% of these events.

The New Zealand Olympic Team is expected to be made up of 14 – 20 athletes across both ice and snow sports with the majority of athletes competing in the freeski and snowboard events.

Athletes selected for the New Zealand Olympic Team to Sochi 2014 are expected to be named from 20 December following confirmation of IF quota spots and nomination by their National Sporting Organisation to the New Zealand Olympic Committee.  

New Zealand Olympic Team Selection will be complete by 17 January 2014.

The Sochi Olympic Games take place 7 – 23 February 2014. 

New Zealand Olympic Team Selection Dates

Please note the following dates may be subject to change:

December 20 2013 - Skeleton

December 23 2013 - Short Track Speed Skating (final quota spots confirmed 22nd Dec)

December 29 2013 – Long Track Speed Skating (final quota spots confirmed 22nd Dec), Biathlon, Curling, Initial Snowboard and Freeski

January 17 2014 – Final Snowboard and Freeski

January 17 2014 – Team complete