The Winter Games NZ opened in celebratory fashion with a party atmosphere and falling snow during night skiing at Coronet Peak on Friday evening. The Hon Grant Robertson, Minister of Sport officially declared the Games open with Alpine Ski Racing kicking off with the action packed head-to-head Parallel Night Slalom presented by Coronet Peak held under lights before fireworks and George FM’s DJ General Lee brought the party to the Peak to conclude the evening.
Alpine Ski Racing’s newest discipline and most spectator friendly event, the Night Parallel Slalom opened the Alpine Ski Racing programme at Coronet Peak with Poland’s Maryna Gasienica-Daniel and Luke Winters of the USA making their way to the end of the round-robin format as the fastest racers of the evening.
A twenty four thousand dollar equal gender prize purse provided a lucrative incentive for athletes to make it through to the evening’s finals via afternoon qualification to confirm the 16 men and women to contest the evening’s finals to over four rounds of racing.
Held over a side by side 20 gate course, the quick fire race format produced tight finishes, DNFs and upsets with kiwi racer and Games ambassador Alice Robinson falling victim to the less favoured red course and exiting in the semi-finals to eventual third place getter Youngseo Kang who made the first international podium of her career.
With the higher ranked athlete of each run choosing their preferred side of the course and the right hand blue course delivering majority of the winning runs of the evening Winter clinched victory in the Men’s competition against the odds when he took a different line on the red course deploying a slalom style cross blocking approach over top seed Adam Zampa who stated that he “needed to start to cross block more” after the finish. Sam Maes of Belgium rounded out the podium taking out the men’s petite final.
Women’s winner Gasienica-Daniel went against the grain picking the red course all night long finding harmony on the right hand side of the Pro-Am course claiming a close victory over Canada’s Ellery Smart.
The event was a chance to see what the Para-Alpine athletes are going to deliver in the days ahead with Paralympic Medallists Corey Peters and Adam Hall along with up and coming kiwi sit skier Aaron Ewan and the hero of last year’s The North Face Frontier 4* Freeride event Patrick Halgren giving a glimpse of the speed they are going to bring to Monday and Tuesday’s Super G courses held on the Hurdle course at Coronet Peak, a truly World Cup level race course being brought back after a long hiatus.