In a reassuring step towards recovery, New Zealand’s Jossi Wells has won slopestyle gold at the FIS World Cup in Gstaad, Switzerland.
The win was Wells' first at a World Cup and secured New Zealand an additional freeski slopestyle quota spot ahead of the Olympic Winter Games.
Dogged by a heel injury in the critical countdown to the games, the oldest of three Wells brothers in Olympic contention has spent the bulk of the last eight weeks off the snow.
The strong result is a significant step in his Olympic build-up and shows his rehabilitation is progressing.
While Team USA athletes did not attend the World Cup, Winter Performance Programme Director Ashley Light said it was still a significant podium win. “It wasn’t an Olympic field, but it was nonetheless a tough event. The result shows that Jossi is on track to recovery and, crucially, has also done the job of earning our team a second quota spot.”
Wells won the competition with an 88.40, throwing a double-corked left side 1260 followed by back-to-back switch 1080s beating Swedish Jesper Tjader by a fraction (88.20).
"I came out here to get some World Cup points and earn New Zealand another quota spot for Sochi," said Wells, "And I did that yesterday by qualifying (for finals), so I came out here today and just wanted to ski my best and hopefully land myself a spot on the podium. So landed my run and ended up up top, and I'm really happy."
In Stoneham, Quebec, New Zealand’s women snowboard slopestyle team are midway through competition with finals underway tomorrow. With strong results by the New Zealanders, it is likely all four national quota spots will be retained ahead of Sochi 2014.
The New Zealand Olympic Team is expected to be made up of around 14 athletes across both ice and snow sports with the majority of athletes competing in the freeski and snowboard events.
The selection announcement will be made on Friday, 24 January 2014.
The Sochi Olympic Games take place 7 – 23 February 2014.