The New Zealand Olympic Committee has today selected six athletes to the New Zealand Youth Olympic Winter Games Team in snowboard, freeski and alpine skiing.

Jackson Wells (freeski), Finn Bilous (freeski), Tiarn Collins (snowboard), Rakai Tait (snowboard), Jackson Rich (alpine skiing) and Elizabeth Reid (alpine skiing) have joined Holly Thompson (Curling), Benjamin Smith (Curling), Courtney Smith (Curling), Matthew Neilson (Curling) and Oliver Curtis (Individual Skills Ice Hockey) in the final team of 11 athletes representing New Zealand at the Youth Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway in 2016.

Hosted from 12-21 February in Lillehammer, Hamar, Gjvik, yer and Oslo, 1,100 young athletes from the age of 14 to 18 from 70 nations will compete in 70 medal events across 15 winter disciplines.

Snow Sports New Zealand Director of Coach and Sport Development, Adam Dooney says they are thrilled for their six athletes selected to the 2016 Youth Winter Olympic Games Team. 

They have all worked hard and deserve to represent New Zealand at the event. The qualification period has been long and tough. All of the athletes that set out to be considered for selection have performed with distinction and have pushed each other and themselves to the limits of their performance, Dooney said. 

The Snow Sports NZ selectors are confident the selected athletes will do themselves, their sport and their country proud in Lillehammer. 

Ashley Light, Snow Sports New Zealand Performance Director says the Youth Olympic Winter Games are an important step in the highly competitive world of Olympic Winter sport.

The Youth Olympic Games is a great opportunity for developing athletes to experience the unique Olympic environment, to gain a small insight into what it might take to become an Olympian in the future," Light said.  

We are sure we will see many of the athletes performing at the Olympic games in the next four to eight years.          

Jackson Wells (Wanaka), brother of Olympians Jossi, Byron and Beau-James Wells, has had some solid results over the past year placing 2nd in the Continental Cup, 4th at the Junior World Champs and most recently 4th in the Copper Mountain Rev Tour. Wells says the Youth Olympic Winter Games are a crucial opportunity moving forward. 

Im really proud to have been named in the team to Lillehammer, Wells said. 

My brother Beau-James went to the Youth Winter Olympic Games in Innsbruck and said it was great preparation, both mentally and physically for the games in Sochi. Selection for the team to Lillehammer will help me achieve my goal of competing at an Olympic Winter Games. 

Finn Bilous (Wanaka) started strong placing 3rd in the Continental Cup early in the 2015 season and 5th in The North Face New Zealand Freeski Open halfpipe event. His selection complements a storming start to the northern hemisphere season. 

"I'm happy and grateful to be given the opportunity to represent New Zealand at the Youth Olympic Games, Bilous said. 

I'm really looking forward to competing in such a large scale event as well as spectate and learn about all the other sports at the Games. This event has been a goal of mine since I first heard about it in 2012, so to now be selected to compete for New Zealand is a huge honour." 

Snowboarder Tiarn Collins is also delighted to be heading to the Youth Olympic Games. He won the Continental Cup early in the New Zealand season riding strongly in the slopestyle event. 

"I'm most looking forward to seeing Norway and competing with the athletes from around the world," Collins said.

"I've always wanted to represent New Zealand doing something I love and I couldn't of asked for more." 

Rakai Tait calls everywhere home, this well travelled 17 year old placed well in the Mammoth and Copper Mountain Rev Tour halfpipe to gain his spot on the Youth Olympic team. He is no stranger to travel including Europe and is looking forward to visiting Norway next month. When asked about his selection Tait said, "the aspect of the Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer I am most excited about is getting to meet and compete alongside athletes of all different countries, sports, and cultures. 

It is such a great honour to be selected to represent the nation of my heritage, and I hope to make New Zealand proud."

Elizabeth Reid (Invercargill) travels three hours to Wanaka to train at the Cardrona High Performance Centre every weekend throughout the winter season. She currently trains with World Ski Connection in Switzerland with coach Adi Bernasconi. Elizabeths strongest results have come this past season with a 4th place finish in Giant Slalom at the Cardrona FIS Tech Series and 6th in National Championship Giant Slalom at Coronet Peak.

I'm most looking forward to the amazing opportunity of being able to race the best girls my age in the world," Reid said.

"I am also excited about the atmosphere that comes with the Games and being able to represent New Zealand on the world stage.  Representing New Zealand at the Youth OlympicGames means a lot knowing I'm not only racing for myself but my country. 

Jackson Rich hails from Plimmerton but trains with Queenstown Alpine Ski Team in the southern Hemisphere winter and is currently training at Mammoth Mountain Ski Club. His best results came this past winter season with a 76.02 point result at the Cardrona Tech Series Giant Slalom.

"Representing New Zealand is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity, I feel extremely privileged and lucky," Rich said.

"The Alpine community is tight knit and most people involved in it know each other. I feel a keen sense of responsibility to do my best and get the most out of every aspect of being at this event. Racing against the best in the world in my age group will be amazing."

New Zealand Youth Winter Olympic Chef de Mission Jesse Teat is delighted the full team has been named. 

I am excited to see a group of athletes with such potential selected in the team, he said. 

It is a wonderful opportunity for these athletes to learn, grow and become proud New Zealanders. We look forward to welcoming the Team in Lillehammer and will ensure the resources are in place so the team can achieve on the world's stage. 

The Youth Olympic Games are an elite sporting event for young people from all over the world. An event distinct from other youth sports events, as they also integrate a unique Culture and Education Programme (CEP), based around five main themes: Olympism, Social Responsibility, Skills Development, Expression and Well-being and Healthy Lifestyles.

SKY Sport will feature twice-daily highlights coverage of the 2016 Winter Youth Games from Lillehammer. Further details will be available closer to the event. 



Lillehammer 2016 Olympic Winter Youth Games Jackson Wells Finn Bilous Elizabeth Reid Tiarn Collins Rakai Tait Jackson Rich Holly Thompson Benjamin Smith Courtney Smith Matthew Neilson Oliver Curtis Freestyle Skiing Snowboard Curling Alpine Skiing Ice Hockey
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