Wanaka Olympians receive heroes’ welcome home

Wanaka snowsports stars Zoi Sadowski-Synott and Nico Porteous sign autographs during the street parade in Wanaka today. Photos/video: Nikki Heath / Wanaka Sun

Photo: Wanaka snowsports stars Zoi Sadowski-Synott and Nico Porteous sign autographs during the street parade in Wanaka today. Photos/video: Nikki Heath / Wanaka Sun

Wanaka’s Winter Olympic heroes

Wanaka snowsports stars Zoi Sadowski-Synott and Nico Porteous have become New Zealand’s youngest-ever Winter Olympic medal winners after they both took bronze in Pyeongchang.

Zoi finished third in the first Ladies’ Big Air event and Nico came third in the Men’s Ski Halfpipe on an historic snowsports Thursday, February 22 for the country.

The two bronzes meant New Zealand tripled its all-time medal haul after its best-ever Winter Olympic campaign, with Zoi and Nico adding to Annelise Coberger’s Slalom silver back in 1992.

Zoi said she was delighted with how the final had gone, despite an anxious wait to see if she would remain in a medal position.

"I just wanted to go and land those two tricks in a row and hopefully get a chance on my third run to throw something I’ve never landed before and I did that. In that second jump it was the best I’ve done it before, so I was just so stoked.

“I had to wait as I was in third, and there were some heavy hitters and the last girl didn’t quite land and I realised I was in third. It was a pretty crazy feeling when I found out," she said.

Nico said he had given it everything on what was a proud day.

"That was every trick I’ve ever worked for for the last four years, I really had nothing left and I couldn’t have done a better run.

"I’m so proud to be a Kiwi right now and to have the flag around my shoulders is just incredible. Age is not a big factor, I just see myself as a freestyle skier and I just have to work hard."
Sport and recreation minister Grant Robertson paid tribute to the pair and said Nico’s win capped a hectic day for Kiwi spectators.

“After waiting 26 years to add to New Zealand’s only Winter Olympics medal, these two amazing young New Zealanders will each be bringing home a bronze medal.

“The New Zealand contingent was buzzing as we made the mad dash from Zoi’s awesome performance to watch our skiers in the men’s Halfpipe. The day just kept getting better, with Nico landing our first-ever men’s Winter Olympic medal,” he said.

A big week for both young athletes ended with more honours, with Zoi chosen for the role of flag bearer for Sunday’s Closing Ceremony and Nico asked to lead the team into the arena.

Chef de Mission Pete Wardell, who made the decision, said, “I’m especially delighted to recognise both Zoi and Nico tonight. Winning our first and second medals in 26 years has meant they will go down in New Zealand sporting history.”

How it happened

After finishing 11th in qualifying on Tuesday February 20, Nico had three runs to prove himself against a tough field of 11 other competitors, including compatriots Beau-James and Byron Wells and reigning Gold medallist David Wise (USA).

Nico’s second run earned him a score of 94.80 out of a possible 100 and it was enough to send him to the podium. David Wise retained his title, with Alex Ferreira in second.

Zoi booked her place in the final with a fifth place finish in qualifying on Monday February 21.
Competing as New Zealand’s only medal hopeful in the event, she notched up scores of 65.50 and 92.00 on her first two runs to seal third place. Anna Gasser (AUT) took first and Jamie Anderson (USA) finished second.

Cover Photo: Wanaka snowsports stars Zoi Sadowski-Synott and Nico Porteous sign autographs during the street parade in Wanaka today. Photo: Nikki Heath / Wanaka Sun

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