10 Feb 2018

Winter Olympians chase 'elusive' medal

1:12 pm on 10 February 2018

It's 26 years since New Zealand won its only Winter Olympic medal - and it's beginning to hang over the team rather than inspire it.

Annelise Coberger atAlbertiville Olympics.

Annelise Coberger atAlbertiville Olympics. Photo: Photosport

Twenty one New Zealand athletes will compete at this year's games in Pyeongchang in South Korea with the opening ceremony later tonight.

Downhill skier Annelise Coberger's silver medal at the 1992 Albertville Olympics seems to haunt the current New Zealand team in Pyeongchang.

The bulk of the team weren't even born when Coberger stood on the podium, but Snowsports New Zealand high performance director Ashley Light said while Olympic success had eluded them, international success hadn't.

"It's important to note that Snowsport athletes have been incredibly successful over the past four years winning X Games gold medals, world cup medals, world championship medals - so being on the podium and winning isn't something that's lacking in the programme, it's just this elusive Olympic medal that every four years gets talked about," Light said.

New Zealand's best medal chance lies with the speed skating team pursuit of Peter Michael, Reyon Kay and Shane Dobbin.

At 38, Dobbin is just one of seven members of the 21 strong New Zealand team that were alive when Coberger won her 1992 medal.

Dobbin came out of retirement to compete at these Games and he isn't regretting it.

Shane Dobbin competing in the 
10 000m final at the Sochi Winter Olympics.

Shane Dobbin competing in the 10 000m final at the Sochi Winter Olympics. Photo: Photosport

The pursuit trio finished second at the world champs in Pyeongchang last year and have posted four top-three finishes in world cup events in the past 18 months.

"The team pursuit in particular is a very competitive event. Out of the eight teams I believe seven have been on the podium this year and the difference between first and sixth for example - you're talking 0.3 of a second and if you spread that over eight laps, it's less than the blink of an eye a lap," Dobbin said.

With the pursuit the only team event in speed skating, Dobbin said most nations centred their training around the individual events, but they'd taken a different approach.

"A lot of the nations may only do one training session a week specifically on the team pursuit.

"We've managed to adapt some of our training programmes for the individual races into a more of a team pursuit environment.

"We have learnt to not only skate close and in synch with each other we're also able to assist each other with speed, skating behind each other we skate with the arm out and the guys behind are assisting the guy in front and kind of give him a little push while we skate," Dobbin said.

Snowboarder Carlos Garcia Knight will be the first New Zealander in action at the Winter Olympics.

Snowboarder Carlos Garcia Knight will be the first New Zealander in action at the Winter Olympics. Photo: Photosport

Snowboarder Carlos Garcia Knight will be attending his first Olympics and is set to be one of the first New Zealand athletes compete.

The heats for his slopestyle competition are tomorrow and he said the course would suit him.

"I really enjoy courses you can play with and look to take different creative lines that not many people have thought of.

"It's also quite technical (this course) which is good as there are a lot of hard features to get through so it makes it a lot trickier but then that's why I enjoy it because the last thing that I want is a plain empty course that you've seen people do a lot of stuff on.

"So it's cool that it's all different to usual and I think it will be an awesome show for people to watch," Knight said.

In total, 3000 athletes across seven sports will compete in 102 events with the opening ceremony getting underway just before midnight.

- RNZ

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