The gold medal is often what athletes strive for but at the 2015 Audi quattro Winter Games they are going for green.
While top of the podium is still the preferred position the winning athletes will receive special greenstone medals hand carved in New Zealand.
Greenstone, or pounamu as it is known to Maori, is a sacred stone that plays an important role in Maori culture. The stone can only be found in southern parts of New Zealand. Pounamu is said to increase the mana or prestige of the holder and those that have been passed down for generations are prized possessions.
Ken Tainui from Ngāi Tahu Iwi who lived in Hokitika originally made the pounamu for the first two Winter Games. Sadly he passed away 18 months ago but now his great nephew Chris Pryor will continue the line and supply the Winter Games with South Island pounamu from South Westland.
“I have been passionate about greenstone since being introduced to it by Ken, roughly 11 years ago,” Pryor says. “I never learned to carve seriously until October last year when I took 3 months off work and spent 100 hours a week in my workshop.”
Pryor was mentored by successful carver Ross Crump who also happened to be Tainui’s best friend.
“It was the biggest mental and physical challenge of my life but persistence has paid off.”
Audi quattro Winter Games 2015
The Audi quattro Winter Games 2015 kicks off on August 21 and showcase some of the best winter athletes in the world as they compete on some of New Zealand’s best slopes.
The Winter Games feature a number of world cup events including cross country, alpine and freeskiing as well as curling and snowboarding.
The opening ceremony of this year’s Audi quattro Winter Games NZ 2015 will include a dramatic, spectator-friendly dual slalom contest staged under floodlights and featuring top alpine skiers from around the world.
The exciting race format is part of a gala opening event at Coronet Peak ski field near Queenstown on Friday 21 August. Free to watch, hundreds of spectators, VIPs, athletes and coaches are expected to attend the opening that will also include a pōwhiri (Māori welcome) from the local Ngāi Tahu tribe.
The slopes of Cardrona and Coronet Peak will provide the terrain for the skiers and snowboarders while Snow Farm, New Zealand’s premier cross country ski area, will host the cross country skiing.
All the mountain sport venues are walking distance from the base buildings and are free for spectators to enjoy.
There are daily flights from all major city centres around New Zealand into Queenstown Airport. There are direct international flights just 3 hours from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
Accommodation in Queenstown and Wanaka ranges from luxury lodges, 5 star hotels to backpackers and motels.