Hawke's Bay alpine ski racer Piera Hudson carved out a career-best performance at her first world cup of the season in the slalom event at the Killington Cup in Vermont in the United States today.
Hudson, skiing from start bib 59 and finishing 26th, was the Sport Hawke's Bay People's Choice Award winner in May.
In World Cup slalom only the 30 fastest racers from the first run of two qualify — or "make the flip" — for run two.
Hudson is one of only a handful of Kiwi athletes, including the likes of Chris Wormsley, Fiona Johnson, Simon Wi Rutene, Annelise Coberger and Claudia Riegler, to achieve a top-30 result and score world cup slalom points. It also was the first for more than 15 years.
"I'm pretty over the moon with today's result," said the 22-year-old two-time Central Hawke's Bay Sportsperson of the Year. "It was tough conditions and visibility but I gave it everything and it paid off. I feel pretty proud to have put New Zealand back on the Alpine World Cup again after so long and I'm excited for the future."
Competing in front of a crowd of 15,000, racers faced challenging visibility and course conditions. Fog and light mist on the lower portion of the course in the first run contributed to 16 athletes failing to make it to the finish line.
Defending Audi FIS World Cup Overall champion Mikaela Shiffrin claimed the win in front of her home crowd.
"From the outside it looked like a surprise result but from the way Piera has been training I had a good feeling about today and she's particularly good in Slalom when the conditions are difficult," Kiwi coach Jonny Rice said. "It's a great feeling to be part of one of the few New Zealand teams to ever score World Cup points."
Hudson, who captured the imagination of the skiing world as a youngster growing up in Tikokino where parents Fiona and John used to be livestock farmers, found cold comfort in her bid to make the New Zealand team to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea in February this year.
It was a cut deeper than the first one of missing the cut to the Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia in February 2014.
Last winter, Hudson and Rice went back to the drawing board to revisit the blueprint as she aspires to become the first winter Olympian from the Bay in the quest to make the 24th Winter Olympics in Beijing, China, in 2022.
Before leaving New Zealand shores early this month, a determined Hudson had declared in September she was expecting it to be a great season where making the cut for the world cup circuit will be her first stepping stone.
Today's conquest will go a long way in instilling a sense of self-belief after conquering the powdery slopes of Wanaka, where she won the New Zealand giant slalom and slalom crowns during the nationals staged in South Island in August.
She had claimed the ANC Continental Cup giant slalom yellow bib after registering a personal-best 11.59 points and a PB of 12.55 points in slalom over eight races at the Cardrona (Wanaka), Coronet Peak (Queenstown) and Mt Hotham (Victoria, Australia) skifields since basing herself there in June.
The World Cup will be staged in Are, Sweden, next February.
A base in Europe will beckon after the American stint, perhaps in Austria, until April to make the most of the powdery slopes of the northern hemisphere winter.
Hudson is studying online and also working in the same mode for a Swedish company to "get a little bit of money on the side".
She welcomes any financial help on: coastalcowhides.co.nz