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|Spandex-clad Jon Olsson carves to victory in New Zealand.|
The New Zealand National Championships GS and slalom race took place yesterday and today at Coronet Peak, on New Zealand's South Island. We don't normally cover ski racing here, except when the winner of the race happens to be Swedish pro freeskier Jon Olsson, who's won two X Games golds in slopestyle and big air over the course of his decorated career and has been juggling a World Cup ski-racing comeback since 2009.
Olsson won the GS yesterday, beating Norwegian Espen Lysdahl and American David Chodounsky in second and third, respectively. Olsson's combined time was 1 minute, 46.59 seconds, nearly half a second faster than Lysdahl's second place time. The victory earned Olsson 10.94 FIS points in GS, which moves his World Cup standing from 85th to 64th in the world, and the third best in GS for Swedish skiers.
He had a late start number for the first run -- bib number 14 -- and was concerned about poor snow conditions (the worst he's seen in his racing comeback, he said) by the time he got on the course. But after his first run, Olsson was in third place behind Espen and Chodounsky.
"In between runs I was super confident," Jon wrote on his blog. "I just sort of had a feeling that I would win today, a feeling I could really get used to. "
After a tricky area at the top of the second run, Olsson says he nailed the important turns and carried good speed onto the flats. "When I heard the guys scream as I crossed the finish line, I knew that it was good, but I still had to see two more guys go down before I knew the result. When Espen passed the finish line close to half a second behind me I knew that I had done the best result of my race comeback."
Olsson is hoping to make the Swedish ski team for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The Monaco-based skier will stay in New Zealand to compete in two more races after this one.
"I had had a few doubts on my skiing this summer as I had been testing a lot of new things and not figured them out yet," Olsson wrote, "so to get this result means a lot to me as I know that all the hard work has paid off."