Queenstown’s Cool Wakushima is in top form as she chases selection for her first Winter Olympic Games.
The 19-year-old snowboard big air and slopestyle athlete has just finished a season of solid training at Cardrona Alpine Resort, and is about to head to the Northern Hemisphere to compete ahead of Beijing 2022.
“I'm super honoured to get to the stage that I am right now,” said Cool. “It’s pretty amazing to be representing New Zealand.
“I'd be so, so excited to make it to Beijing and I really want to go so I’m going to be working super hard to get there.”
Born in Japan, Wakushima moved to New Zealand with her family when she was eight and settled in Queenstown.
With snowboarding in the blood, it was only a matter of time until she joined her family on the mountain.
“My older brother snowboards, so I kind of strapped on his old boards and just went for it and that's how I got into snowboarding.
“My mum's always been supportive, she boards too, and I also have a younger brother who always rides with me, no matter how moody I am.”
Watching the PyeongChang Winter Olympics as a 15-year-old was a major catalyst for Wakushima, who was spurred on by Zoi Sadowski Synnott’s bronze medal win.
“It pushed me to get more into slopestyle and big air and it influenced me to want to compete and get on the international stage. Zoi’s medal inspired a lot of women out here in New Zealand and showed what a cool sport snowboarding is.”
Wakushima is now Sadowski-Synnott’s teammate, and this year showed what she’s capable of, finishing a career best 7th place at the FIS Snowboard Slopestyle World Cup in Silvaplana, Switzerland.
She says she loves pushing her limits and expressing herself through her sport.
“I like taking risks, and slopestyle and big air has big risks. It feels amazing to land something that's so risky and show that you can do stuff that not the not many people can do. I hope I get the chance to do that in Beijing.”