Dana Johannsen on sport

Dana Johannsen is a Herald sport writer

Dana Johannsen: Sochi - It's like watching Kiwis on an expensive ski holiday

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Kiwi Josiah Wells takes a jump during the men's ski slopestyle qualifying at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics. Photo / AP
Kiwi Josiah Wells takes a jump during the men's ski slopestyle qualifying at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics. Photo / AP

As we revel in the feel-good glow of an extraordinary comeback by the Black Caps in the second test against India, it jars with the attitude towards our Kiwi competitors in Sochi.

Our Winter Olympians are a hard lot to get behind. Given New Zealand's modest record at the Winter Olympics, the team went to Sochi with very few expectations from the public. We knew medals were a long shot, but what we did expect was that they'd at least show a bit of grit and determination. We hoped our plucky bunch of ice warriors would punch above their weight on the world stage.

Rather than "making us proud" as New Zealand Olympic Committee's motto has been, the winter team has more often than not been guilty of making us cringe. Speed skater Shane Dobbin is now our only hope of restoring some respectability to New Zealand's campaign in the final of the 10,000m overnight, but at this point few will be bothered to watch.

It didn't start well when our four-strong contingent of female slopestyle snowboarders (a rather indulgent number of entries, when you consider there were only 25 in total) all failed to advance to the final, which required scoring in the top half of the field.

Their failure was bizarrely met with assurances by team officials they had all been nailing their jumps in their practice runs.

But the biggest disappointment so far was when Jossi Wells, one of just a couple of competitors with an outside shot of a medal, waved the white flag in his second run in the final of the slopestyle skiing. Wells qualified 10th for the 12-man final and, after an early slip-up in his first run, needed to produce something special on his second to get into medal contention. Instead, Wells caught a ski on the early rail section and opted to coast for the rest of the course, declining to exhibit any of the spectacular jumps he produced in qualifying. It was a massive let-down for Kiwi supporters back home, who hadn't stayed up late to watch Wells coast backwards down a hill because whether he finishes 11th or seventh makes no difference to him.

Not only has the team bombed spectacularly, they seem to be having a good time doing so. It's more like watching a bunch of Kiwis on an expensive skiing holiday than a bunch of top athletes representing their nation at the highest level.

We see them at the end of their runs, sticking out their tongues, waving to the camera with "hi Mum and Dad" written on their hands, and theatrically shrugging their shoulders when their score puts them out of contention. Their twitter feeds are full of selfies and really rad instagram pics. The very fact the most notable thing a New Zealand athlete has done at the Sochi Games is attempt to pick up the Jamaican Bobsled team kind of says it all.

Deep down, I'm sure there'll be no one more disappointed with their performances than the athletes themselves, but perception is important - and our lot, well, they just don't seem to give a flying 540, so why should we?

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- NZ Herald

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