Dan­gen se­lected

The New Zealand Herald - - SUPER SPORT -

New Zealand has se­lected six K1 ath­letes for this year’s ca­noe slalom World Cup se­ries, in­clud­ing the re­turn­ing Jack Dan­gen. The 19-year-old re­tired from the sport two years ago to start an apprenticeship but has re­turned to the water. He’ll rep­re­sent New Zealand along­side Mike Daw­son and Finn Butcher in the men’s stakes, while Olympic sil­ver medal­list Luuka Jones head­lines the women’s team. She’ll be joined by Court­ney Wil­liams and Jane Ni­cholas.

New Zealand’s skele­ton racer Rhys Thorn­bury has given him­self a fight­ing chance of a medal go­ing into the fi­nal stage of his Win­ter Olympics cam­paign. The Bri­tish-based Thorn­bury pulled out one of his best per­for­mances in the first run at the Olympic slid­ing cen­tre, clock­ing 50.98s, and fol­lowed it with 51.03s, giv­ing him an over­all time of 1m 41.93s. That places him eighth in the 30-man field with two more runs to go.

Thorn­bury trails South Korean Yun Sung-bin, the leader and favourite, by 1.58s. Rus­sian Nikita Tegubov is sec­ond and Lat­vian Martins Dukurs, a five-time world cham­pion and twice Olympic sil­ver medal­list, is third with 1m 41.23s.

Thorn­bury has a good track record on the cir­cuit in PyeongChang, but ad­mit­ted there were nerves as he ap­proached the start.

“I tried to be as least ner­vous as pos­si­ble, but com­ing out of the chang­ing rooms down on to the ice, the nerves re­ally hit me, but I think in a good way,” he said.

He was happy with his first run but Dukurs “blew me away and left me scratch­ing my head” with his sec­ond run of 50.38s. Still, Thorn­bury, who took leave from Bri­tain’s Royal Air Force to pre­pare for the Olympics, knows he can be as quick as most in the field. And a medal chance?

“It would prob­a­bly take some­thing spe­cial but I’m not go­ing in to stay in eighth. I guar­an­tee some peo­ple will make mis­takes and maybe it’s a mix of me do­ing bet­ter and oth­ers mak­ing mis­takes. Any­thing can hap­pen and I know I’ll climb the rank­ings if I do what I know I can.”

New Zealand’s youngest team mem­ber, 16-year-old alpine skier Alice Robin­son, fin­ished 35th in the giant slalom at the Yong­Py­ong Alpine Cen­tre. She clocked 1m 16.66s in the first run of her pre­ferred event and a faster 1m 14.53s in the sec­ond run to be just over 11s be­hind gold medal win­ner Mikaela Shiffrin of the United States. Shiffrin trailed Italy’s Manuela Moegg by 0.20s af­ter the first run but fought back on the sec­ond run to clinch gold by 0.39s.

“Maybe I was try­ing a bit too hard to go full throt­tle, not think­ing enough about the tech­ni­cal as­pect, pay­ing too much at­ten­tion to go­ing fast in­stead of be­ing tac­ti­cally smart,” Robin­son said.

She will con­test her lesser dis­ci­pline, the slalom, to­day.

Dun­can Camp­bell was 32nd out of 39 in his first seed­ing run of the snow­board cross, failed to fin­ish his sec­ond run and was fifth and last in his quar­ter-fi­nal to bow out.

Mean­while, Ton­gan cross-coun­try skier Pita Ta­ufato­fua joked that he has two pri­mary goals when he com­petes in his first Win­ter Olympics: Don’t hit a tree and fin­ish be­fore they turn off the lights.

The medal podium is far from the mind of the fa­mously shirt­less Ton­gan, who qual­i­fied for the event de­spite hav­ing taken up the sport less than a year ago and hav­ing spent less than 12 weeks of his life on snow.

The 34-year-old Ta­ufato­fua said his long-term goal in PyeongChang was to in­spire oth­ers from the South Pa­cific.

He said he knows he won’t medal to­day, “but in four years, some­one from Tonga might. In eight years, some­one from the Pa­cific might”.

He said kids who watch will have “ac­cess to some­thing they never knew ex­isted be­fore”.

Pic­ture / AP

Rhys Thorn­bury says he will need “some­thing spe­cial” for a medal.

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