The land of the long white cloud has its first gold medal in the history of the Winter Olympics.
New Zealand’s Zoi Sadowski Synnott launched a thrilling run on her final trip to the Secret Garden Olympic Slopestyle course on Sunday to win the gold medal for her island nation.
“The greatest race of my life,” said Sadowski Synnot, 20, an Australian-born shredder with an American mother and a Kiwi father.
They moved to Wanaka, on New Zealand’s South Island, when she was 6.
New Zealand is best known for its beloved All Blacks rugby team and even for hosting the America’s Cup sailing. But it also has mountain resorts, especially near where Sadowski Synnot lives, making it one of the Southern Hemisphere’s top destinations for snowboarding and skiing.
“Absolute disbelief,” Sadowski Synnott said. “It probably means more to me to win New Zealand’s first winter gold.”
She attacked the oversized course with a difficult and progressive run despite the hard snow and icy chills that made it difficult for most of the 12 finalists. This included two-time defending champion Jamie Anderson, who finished ninth.
Sadowski Synnott started her last of three races behind her American rival Julia Marino, but took a big hit.
She landed a double-cork 1080 on the penultimate jump, including a solid mid-plank hold that she held for more than long enough for the judges to see clearly. And then she repeated the double cork in a different direction, like she did in her win at the Winter X Games last month when she became the first woman to pull it off.
Sadowski Synnott threw his hands up after landing and was tackled in celebration at the finish line by silver-winning Marino and bronze medalist Tess Coady of Australia.
“Pretty sick,” Sadowski Synnott said of the celebration.
Chinese teenager Su Yiming had a big early round and was the surprise leader in the men’s slopestyle qualifying round.
Throwing a triple cork, the kind of trick most runners save for the final, Su finished with a score of 86.80. He edged out his idol, Canada’s Mark McMorris, and defending Olympic champion Red Gerard, who also advanced to Monday’s final.
Su, 17, clapped in excitement after completing his first lap to cheers from a sparse crowd in the stands. Su won a major air competition in Steamboat Springs, Colorado in December. His best slopestyle finish on the World Cup circuit was sixth on New Year’s Day.
Gerard finished fifth in qualifying and McMorris second. The top 12 runners moved on.
SOLD OUT MEN’S DOWNHILL
The men’s downhill, the first event of the alpine ski programme, was postponed due to strong winds which made the race to the top of The Rock, the speed course at the Yanqing Alpine Ski Center, too dangerous. The wind was blowing at 40 mph at the scheduled departure time. There were three delays before it was finally cancelled.
The men’s downhill has been postponed until Monday, when the first women’s race, the giant slalom, will take place.
“I would love to ski today, but I wouldn’t like to ski in unfair conditions,” said Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, a Norwegian who leads the downhill and super-G World Cup standings and was the faster in Friday’s second training session. “The wind here is a big, big challenge. And it’s a shame, because you have good weather, you have good snow, you have a perfect slope. We just have to be patient and do our best.
Mikaela Shiffrin of the United States will defend her 2018 Olympic gold medal in the giant slalom on Monday. She is dating Kilde.