FREE SKIING NATIONALS SKIER-X

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Over 55 of the country's best free skiers gathered today at Cardrona Alpine Resort for the second event of the New Zealand Free Skiing Nationals - the Saab Salomon Skier-X.



There was a strong field of both Kiwi and international skiers providing some fierce competition on the course for the national champion titles. Hamish Acland, Free Skiing New Zealand president said the size of the field was extremely encouraging for the future of the sport.



"The huge turnout demonstrates the major growth free skiing is currently experiencing in New Zealand," he said. "Everyone enjoyed racing on a challenging course that had good motor-cross style berms, woops and jumps."



Bridget Rayward of Tekapo defended her National Women's title with ease as she won for the second year in a row. One of New Zealand's top big mountain skiers, Sam Hazledine, transferred his skills to the gravity-x course to take the men's title although he had to make do with second place as Swiss national, Stefan Fluny just beat him to the finish line.



The youth boys' title went to Jossi Wells (13) of Wanaka with younger brother Byron (11) hot on his heels in second. Both boys are members of Cardrona's SAS training programme, as are Harriet Fyfe (11) and Nicole Andrews (11), also of Wanaka who came first and second respectively in the youth girls. Sarah Gillespie (16) also trains with the SAS, helping her achieve the title of Junior Women's Champion. The Junior Men's title went to Nick Kingston (17) of Wanaka whose ski racing background gave him the edge over close rival Sam Smoothy (17) of Cromwell.



"This event shows just how beneficial specialist training is," said Peter Legavnasky, SAS head coach. "These kids are amazing skiers and can adapt to any terrain and discipline with ease."



The nationals continue tomorrow (Sun 24 August) with the halfpipe competition in Cardrona's Monster superpipe.



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