Audi quattro Winter Games 2015 kicked off in style in New Zealand’s Southern Alps with a colourful opening ceremony on Friday night (NZT), and the beautiful weather continued over the weekend.
The games were officially launched at Coronet Peak Ski Area near Queenstown where a huge crowd gathered for the opening which featured a world-class dual slalom under floodlights.
World champions Mikaela Shiffrin and Ted Ligety did not disappoint and took out the honours in the action packed races.
Shiffrin, who is the current world number one in slalom, said the head-to-head slalom was a “fantastic way to finish my camp in New Zealand. It was a tough race against Paula who is a very good skier but I am very excited to have won it.”
Ligety, the 2015 world giant slalom champion, also claimed he was lucky to beat David Chodounsky who was quicker over the finish in the first run but had a bad start in the second.
“The dual slalom here at Coronet Peak was a very cool event,” Ligety said. “The conditions were great and it was a lot of fun being part of it.”
Athletes from all over the world joined VIPs and the local community for the opening which began with a ski down Coronet Peak’s shirtfront by young Queenstown Alpine Ski Team racers carrying flags of the countries represented at the Games. Coronet Peak ski instructors followed with flares lighting up the night sky.
A Maori welcome was followed by a kapa haka performance by a 60-strong group of Queenstown school children before the official part of the ceremony.
The action continued over the weekend but the Queenstown and Wanaka slopes were the star of the show with beautiful weather and great snow conditions. The FIS Snowboard World Cup Slopestyle wowed the crowds and 15-year-old prodigy Chris Corning of the USA took out the gold just beating Japanese superstar Yuki Kadono in a tight contest.
US superstar Jamie Anderson asserted her dominance from her first run and went on to take the gold in the women’s slopestyle.
It was the Europeans who starred in the halfpipe. French skiers Kevin Rolland, Thomas Krief and Benoit Valentin took home first, second and third - the first time French skiers have taken the entire podium for a FIS World Cup halfpipe event.
US Olympic silver medallist Devin Logan was too good for the rest of the women’s field.
The good weather looks set to continue over the next week as the Southern Lakes region shows off its spectacular scenery to the world. The athletes’ village is a hive of activity with daily events keeping the competitors and the public busy while they are off-piste.
The week ahead continues with a busy schedule of events including curling, slalom, slopestyle, and all culminating in the snowboard and ski big air finals on Sunday (August 30 NZT).