Had it not been for a friend taking Carlos Garcia Knight on a trip to the mountains when they were 11, the chances are he would not be poised to put a spectacular finish on New Zealand's best Winter Olympics in PyeongChang tomorrow.

The Christchurch 20-year-old remembers the experience as if it was yesterday.

''I grew up skateboarding with my friends in Christchurch,'' he said.

''One of them went up snowboarding one day and I got super jealous.


''He ended up taking me the next weekend, to Mt Lyford (140km north of Christchurch and east of Hanmer Springs), and we had amazing conditions.

''I liked having the board strapped to my feet (as opposed to flying off the skateboard). The snow was soft compared to concrete,'' he laughed.

''Now it's taken me all over the world.''

Garcia Knight will line up in the men's Big Air final (from 2pm on Saturday) as top qualifier, after turning in a terrific 97.5 in the second of his two jumps this week.

He was scored 1.5 points ahead of Swiss Jonas Boesiger with well-performed Canadian Mark McMorris, bronze medallist already in the slopestyle in South Korea, nipping at their heels.

Garcia Knight has seen New Zealand pick up two bronze medals on Thursday through snowboarder Zoi Sadowski-Synnott and freeskier Nico Porteous in the halfpipe.

So the task of putting the cherry on top of New Zealand's most successful Winter Olympics falls to the polite, amiable Cantabrian. No pressure.

Garcia Knight's qualifying performance says plenty about the discipline.

His world ranking is No 51; he was 18th at the world champs in Spain last year and has a best result this season of 15th in the Beijing round of the World Cup. And yet the others are all in behind him.

''It comes down to who can do it on the day,'' he said.

''I've put a lot of thought into how I do what I want to, and make it look good.

''But dead right, there's so many (good) snowboarders out there.''

Garcia Knight, whose father is from Cadiz, Spain, reckons he butchered a big chance in the slopestyle final, finishing a still highly creditable fifth. His mind wandered off message before his final run and a poor effort did for his chances of making the podium.

''That's fresh in mind and I learnt from that experience. I'm ready to go now. I'll think about the snow and the performance, not anything else.''

Sadowski-Synnott has her fingers crossed for her fellow snowboarder.

''I just hope he doesn't feel too much pressure and goes out and does what he usually does,'' she said.

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