Lake Wanaka, New Zealand (August 6, 2012) – Elite skiers and riders representing twenty four nations are lining up to compete in the FIS Snowboard and Freestyle Ski Halfpipe World Cups at Cardrona Alpine Resort from 20-26 August 2012.

Yurie Yamazaki of Japan (Photo by Camilla Stoddart/Getty Images)

Quality field for Halfpipe World Cup events

Olympic medallists, World Cup champions and Winter Games 2011 medallists all feature in the field of athletes as they compete in the first event of the official Olympic qualification period for Sochi, Russia in 2014. The upcoming event is this year’s sole World Cup stop in the Southern Hemisphere.

Top riders planning to compete in the snowboard halfpipe include Nathan Johnstone (AUS) who finished the 2011 season as the highest ranked halfpipe rider on the World Cup circuit and is the current Bronze Olympic medal holder, Ryo Aono (JPN) runner up of the 2011 World Cup circuit and Arthur Longo (FRA) who placed third. Also to compete are Tore Holvik, Norway’s national champion, Dimi De Jong (NED), who is currently third in the World Cup standings, Johann Baisamy (FRA) and Taku Hiraoka (JPN).

Cardrona Alpine Resort on August 22, 2012 New Zealand(Photo by Camilla Stoddart/Getty Images)

The women’s snowboard field is equally strong with nine of the top ten Olympic field on the start list including Olympic Gold, Silver and Bronze medallists: Torah Bright (AUS), Hannah Teter (USA) and Kelly Clark (USA) respectively. Also competing is last season’s Wold Cup halfpipe champion Cai Xuetong (CHN) who will be looking to retain the New Zealand World Cup title. Holly Crawford (AUS), 2011 World Cup series runner up and Stephanie Magiros (AUS) who is currently second on the TTR rankings.

The international riders face strong competition from New Zealand’s home grown snowboarding talent. Mitchell Brown (Mt Maunganui), James Hamilton (Auckland) and Ben Stewart (Christchurch) are all on the start list. Mitch’s sister, Kendall Brown (Mt Maunganui) and Olympian Rebecca Sinclair (Wanaka) will be vying for top spots in the women’s competition.

Gus Kenworthy of USA (Photo by Camilla Stoddart/Getty Images)

The freeski athletes will enter a new era as their competition points, for the first time, will count towards gaining an Olympic spot. The International Olympic Committee announced in April that men’s and women’s halfpipe skiing will be an Olympic sport at the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Last season’s Freestyle Ski Halpipe World Cup champion Benoit Valentin (FRA) has confirmed he will be competing later this month alongside the talented USA freeskier Torin Yater-Wallace and Gus Kenworthy (USA) who placed first in freestyle ski halfpipe of the 2011 Winter Games NZ. With the home advantage Jossi Wells, second at the 2011 Winter Games NZ and AFP Overall World Champion in 2010, together with brother Byron Wells and Lyndon Sheehan will be representing New Zealand.

Gus Kenworthy of USA (Photo by Camilla Stoddart/Getty Images)

In the women’s freestyle ski competition top freestyle skier Virginie Faivre (SUI), who placed 4th in 2012 Winter X Games Europe Halfpipe, will have strong competition from Manami Mitsuboshi (JPN) and Kimmy Sharp (USA). New Zealand’s Janina Kuzma (Wanaka), two-time Canadian Freeski Champion and two-time World Heli Challenge Champion, Rose Battersby (Taupo) and Amy Sheehan (Wanaka) will be aiming for positions on the women’s podium.

Winter Games NZ CEO, Arthur Klap is thrilled the World Cups have attracted such an elite field of athletes. “The competition will be fierce which is great for both the athletes and spectators who will be entertained by the creative mix of tricks, back-to-back rotations and big air grabs,” he said. “Being a year out from the Winter Games 2013 and attracting this calibre of athletes gives us a message how highly regarded New Zealand is as a snow sports destination capable of staging world class competitions.”

Jossi Wells of New Zealand (Photo by Camilla Stoddart/Getty Images)

Off mountain the Winter Games Adventure Film Festival from the 24-26 August returns to Queenstown. There’s an action packed programme of spectacular adventure films to inspire and entertain.

The FIS Freestyle Ski Halfpipe World Cup will take place on 22 August while the FIS Snowboard Halfpipe World Cup will take place on 25-56 August, both at Cardrona Alpine Resort.

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