Copper Mountain, USA - (8 December 2013) – New Zealand freeskiers Janina Kuzma (Wanaka) and Beau-James Wells (Wanaka) have made a solid start to their northern hemisphere season, both qualifying for the halfpipe finals of The North Face Park and Pipe Open Series at Copper Mountain Resort in Colorado, USA.
Eighty athletes competed in extremely cold and cloudy conditions during Saturday’s qualifying rounds of The North Face Park and Pipe Open Series. Only sixteen male and sixteen female athletes made it through to the final round on Sunday (US time). As part of the U.S. Grand Prix series which acts as the Olympic qualification for freeskiing athletes in the U.S, the event attracted a strong and intensely committed field. Competition was fierce from the outset with each skier looking to put down their best tricks in the super pipe.
Janina Kuzma qualified in ninth place having landed a safe first run and looked to push her performance in finals the following day. The men competed in two separate heats. Beau-James Wells claimed fourth place in qualifying heat one with 79.25 scored on his second run.
On to finals day and with fresh snow in the super pipe skiers once again battled frigid temperatures. Following a solid first run Janina Kuzma was sitting in fourth place with a score of 78.25 and ready to step up for the second run.
“There was no point repeating the same run so I decided to try for the 900 in my second run,” explained Janina. It wasn’t to be, Janina not quite making the full 900 rotation but landing a 700 to finish with a final placing of sixth behind Annalisa Drew (USA) in first, Devin Logan (USA) second and Ayana Onozuka (Japan) third.
“I’m pleased with my result,” said Janina. “It’s a good warm up for the season.”
Beau-James Wells posted his highest score with his second run which comprised a 540 on the first hit, followed by a double 900 on the second, nine to right seven and finished off with a switch seven. His score of 80.75 earned a solid sixth place overall. For the up and coming skier the event provided a valuable opportunity to benchmark against the world’s best.
The day’s highest score of 93.50 was awarded to USA’s Gus Kenworthy who is currently ranked first in the Association of Freeski Professionals (AFP) overall world rankings. Defending 2012 PPOS Copper Mountain Champion Mike Riddle (Canada) placed second with USA’s Kyle Smaine in third.
Beau-James also agreed that the event had provided a good foundation for the season ahead. With a pre-event goal simply “to ski my best and not focus too much on results” Beau-James declared himself “really pleased” with his final placing.
Janina Kuzma and Beau-James Wells will next compete at the Dew Tour in Breckenridge, Colorado from 12 – 15 December before returning to Copper Mountain for the World Cup event, a key stop on the final leg of their Olympic qualifying campaign. The New Zealand team for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games will be announced in January 2014. The XXII Olympic Winter Games will take place in Sochi, Russia from 7 – 23 February 2014.