Published Friday 07 February 2014

Sochi, Russia- (6 February 2014) – The opening competition of the XXII Olympic Winter Games took place in Sochi today (1400h Sochi, 2300h NZT) with the new Olympic event of snowboard slopestyle the first on the games schedule. 

New Zealanders Christy Prior, Shelly Gotlieb, Stefi Luxton and Rebecca ‘Possum’ Torr were amongst the 24 female riders to face the challenging course at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.

Competitors and spectators were treated to picture-perfect blue skies and calm conditions. 

Slopestyle is a judged event and riders are awarded points as they descend a course made up of a series of rail features at the top and three large jumps towards the bottom.

Judging criteria is based on overall impression including ‘difficulty’ of the run, ‘amplitude’ (how high athletes go in the air), ‘execution’ (how well tricks are performed and the variety of manoeuvres), ‘progression’ (new and exciting manoeuvres), and 'combinations' (putting difficult manoeuvres in to sequence).In today’s event the top four female riders in each heat progressed straight to the finals while the remaining competitors must now contest semi-final rounds. Riders therefore had to make a tactical choice between landing a safe run or risking a more technical run in the hunt for the highest scores.

First Kiwi rider to take to the course, Christy Prior, opted for the smaller side of the jump features while incorporating technical tricks such as a “Wildcat” in to the run in the hope that she would be rewarded with a high enough score to progress to finals.

Her score of 67.50 saw her placed 7th after the first run. Looking slightly more relaxed on her second run Christy upped her score to 70.50 to maintain 7th place at the end of the heat.“I’m just really happy to put down two runs in this environment and build some confidence,” commented Christy. 

Indicating that there would a change of strategy for the semi-final competition she added, “For the semis I’m excited to step it up to the big side (of the jumps).”Despite pre-event nerves Rebecca ‘Possum’ Torr came out charging in her first run to earn 70.75 and the New Zealand team’s top score of the day.

Rebecca finished the heat in 6th place.“I’m feeling super confident going into practice tomorrow and I’m ready to get the job done,” she remarked after competition.Stefi Luxton put together a solid performance, landing a clean first run with a score of 59.75 to finish eighth overall. One of the final riders to drop into the course, Shelly Gotlieb took a fall just after the rail features on her first run.

Looking ready for business on the second run Shelly was the first rider of the day to tackle the handrail feature before a fall on the first jump put her out of contention for a spot in the finals.Winter

Performance Programme Director, Ashley Light who is in Sochi for the games was pleased with the day’s results calling it “a good first hit out” for the team. “While it would have been nice to go straight through to finals we have another day to fight it out in the semi-finals.We’ve built some good momentum here today.”The New Zealand athletes will now contest the women’s snowboard slopestyle semi-finals on 9 February.