At the beginning of 2016 Wanaka freeskier Finn Bilous was on the trip of a lifetime, competing in the idyllic ski resort town of Lillehammer, Norway, at the second edition of the Winter Youth Olympic Games.
Bilous was just 16 at the time and was named New Zealand team flagbearer. The young athlete was quick to prove he was the right choice, going on to win New Zealand’s first ever Winter Youth Olympic Games medal, a silver in the halfpipe, before backing it up with bronze in slopestyle.
“The Winter Youth Olympic Games is right up there as one of the best experiences of my life. It was awesome to achieve those results and win medals for New Zealand. The team there were really helpful, it was such a good team atmosphere and I just loved it,” Bilous said.
Above: Bilous competing
Just over a year and a half on from that life changing experience, Bilous (now 18), has been selected to compete in slopestyle at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
“It’s a dream come true, I’ve always wanted to compete for New Zealand at the Olympic Winter Games so I’m beyond stoked to be going. It was pretty surreal getting the phone call saying I’d been selected, it’ll be such an awesome and exciting experience”.
Above: Bilous and PyeongChang 2018 Chef de Mission Pete Wardell at the selection announcement
He credits the Youth Games with helping him on the performance pathway to the Olympic Winter Games.
“It was such a good competition and it definitely spurred me on. As well I feel more confident heading to PyeongChang because I’ve had that experience and know the processes at a Games environment, it’s just a step up and scaled up which will be cool.”
Bilous will finish the school year before heading to Europe and North America for further training and competitions. He says he’ll be working harder than ever ahead of the Games.
“I’m just going to focus on what I need to do. Being consistent with my training is going to be really important so I’ll be putting everything into that.”
Above: Bilous competing at the 2017 Winter Games NZ
The skier is reluctant to look beyond PyeongChang, preferring to focus on the task at hand, but at such a young age Bilous is likely to be an integral part of the future of New Zealand freeskiing.
“There’s many more seasons to come and I want to keep being a professional skier. Skiing is what I love to do and that’s not going to change anytime soon.”
The Olympic Winter Games run February 9th to 25th in PyeongChang South Korea.