Snow sports community 'celebrates daily' the current overseas medal haul
Queenstown and Wānaka's young stars have cleaned up at the Winter Youth Olympic Games and other snow sports events in 2024's competition season.
Snow Sports New Zealand high performance manager Luke Hetzel says even though they can't celebrate altogether, he'd been "celebrating daily" the different wins coming in from around the world.
"We've never had this level of success at the Youth Olympics before...we're stoked to see this success across the board."
He attributes the multiple medals to "a lot of hardwork" from the young competitors, who are juggling training, home life, school and the gym.
- Luke Harrold (freeski), Lucia Georgalli (snowboard) and Campbell Melville Ives (snowboard) each won a bronze medal on Big Air finals day at the youth Olympics, Lucia also earned silver for Slope Style.
- Wānaka's Nico Porteous received a silver medal in Aspen at the X Games for the Men's Ski SuperPipe
- Wānaka's Finn Bilous collected silver at the Freeride World Tour in Switzerald
- Queenstown's Alice Robinson claimed a third-place finish at the FIS Giant Slalom World Cup held in Slovakia
Mr Hetzel says over the past few years, the biggest change at Snow Sports NZ is the amount of youth who've become serious about competing rather than skiing and snowboarding recreationally.
He reckons the presence of Olympic gold medal winners Nico Porteous and Zoi Sadowski-Synnott out on the slopes has contributed to this.
Mr Hetzel says kids can see them practicing every day on the local Wānaka ski fields in the winter season.
Stephanie Georgalli, parent to Lucia Georgalli, who scored to two medals at the Winter Youth Olympics, says her daughter has a "village" of supporters back home in Wānaka, and there was a gathering of friends and family together watching her events live together.
She also received live Snapchat updates from Lucia in between runs, talking about how she went.
Lucia earned a silver medal for the slope style and bronze for the snowboard big air, and Ms Georgalli says she's impressed with her daughter's "mental motivation" and seeing her on the podium "makes it all worthwhile".
"She trains so hard, she's at the gym doing strength work, she's doing dry slopes, it's pretty awesome."
Although, when her daughter's catching big air on the world stage, Ms Georgalli admits to feeling a little queasy.
"It's really hard as a mother to watch your child compete at that level and do those jumps - it's really scary."
Throughout the years, as a single mum, Ms Georgalli says it has been "pretty tough at times" to fund her daughter's sporting career, with limited financial support from a few grants, but she has remained determined to make things work.
"You can't stop your children's dreams when they're this good at a sport."
The snow sports athletes have also garnered support locally from Mount Aspiring College, with winners being a mixture of former or current students.
The school community is planning to celebrate students at an upcoming assembly.
Principal Nicola Jacobsen says everyone at MAC feels incredibly proud of the current and past students who have represented New Zealand at the Winter Youth Olympic Games.
She says seeing their students train and perform at an elite level is an inspiration for those at college, and this level of committiment and performance helps "create a culture of high performance" at the school.
The school's aim is to support the students' dreams, and they are flexible in how they deliver their learning programmes to help students reach their goals, Ms Jacobsen says.
"Some of our students enrol in Te Kura (Correspondence School), some use our resources through Google Classroom and keep in contact with teachers via email.
"Last year, we had a partnership with the Wānaka Snowsports Club, who supported students by providing a tutor for them to work with after their training. We hope to continue this partnership in 2024.
"Current MAC students Lucia Georgalli, Luke Harrold, Cam Melville-Ives, Fin Melville-Ives, and Baxter Pollard competed at the games, as well as three former MAC students Finn Bilous, Hamish Barlow and Campbell Appel."
Main image: Lucia Georgalli competing at the Youth Olympics in Korea this year.
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