The Kiwis crushed it at the Olympics on Thursday thanks to a couple of kids who are barely old enough to drive in New Zealand.
First, 16-year-old snowboarder Zoi Sadowski-Synnott ended New Zealand’s 26-year medal drought with a bronze in the women’s Big Air. A couple hours later, fellow 16 year-old Nico Porteous tacked on another bronze in the men’s freestyle skiing halfpipe.
“I’m so proud to be a Kiwi right now,” Porteous said. “So proud.”
The country’s only previous Winter Games medal was a silver won by Annelise Coberger in women’s slalom at Albertville in 1992.
So the pressure fell on the shoulders of New Zealand’s next generation of snow stars, and they answered the call.
The medals are a payoff to changes the Kiwis made to their ski and snowboard programme after the 2014 Sochi Games. Among the new faces is development coach Mike Hanley, who focuses on aerial awareness and technical approaches.
Hanley radically changed the way New Zealand manages its winter sport athletes, and kids like Porteous and Sadowski-Synnott bought right in.
Another youngster, 20-year-old Carlos Garcia Knight, qualified in the top spot for the men’s snowboard big air event Saturday and could add another medal.
“It was the next generation that we saw just really open to change,” Hanley said. “They were OK with being scared and they knew they had to break from the old in order to really change the game and get some medals for New Zealand.”
Edited by Ben Young