When Zoi Sadowski-Synnott began to make a name for herself as an up-and-coming snowboarder, she had options as to which country she could represent.

Born in Australia to an American mother and Kiwi father, she had three choices. But, living in New Zealand for the majority of her life, when the time came it was an easy decision.

"There was no question in her mind," her father Sean Synnott told the Herald.

"She just wanted to be with the New Zealand guys and compete for New Zealand. She's a very, very proud Kiwi."

Advertisement

The 16-year-old snowboarder from Wanaka won a bronze medal at the Winter Olympics in the women's big air competition on Thursday, winning New Zealand's first medal at the Winter Games in 26 years.

Sadowski-Synnott's career in snowboard began on wheels – skateboarding on a ramp built in the family's back yard before moving onto the snow.

Synnott said they had always had a trampoline dug into the ground, but he and wife Robin Sadowski decided to get something more.

They bought the ramp as a present for their son, Dylan, but many of the neighbourhood children got great use out of it.

"What was a very small little ramp became a very large ramp," Synnott said. "It certainly blew the budget."

They sold the property five years ago, and had to leave the ramp behind – floodlights and all. But the seed was planted and now she's an Olympic medallist.

"This has been a goal of hers for four or five years; for four or five years to get to the 2022 Olympics not these ones. She's trained hard, put in the time but hasn't let go of the other important things in life."

Despite working hard to develop her craft, Sadowski-Synnott hadn't let school work slip. Last year, she achieved merit endorsements despite only being at school for about 30 per cent of the year.

Advertisement

"And obviously dealing with early morning trainings and gym time to strengthen her core and her legs as well...we haven't quite figured out how she does it but we're pretty proud of her."

To get the day's top sports stories in your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here