Olympic champion snowboarder Zoi Sadowski-Synnott (20) got her start on the snow by tagging behind older brothers Dylan and Harrison at the Whistler resort in Canada.
Proud parents Sean Synnott and Robin Sadowski-Synnott recalled this week their then 8-year-old daughter was one of only two females in a competition called King and Queen of the Rails and went on to win a smartphone in the open women’s snowboard competition.
It was then she realised she could win really cool stuff if she competed, her father recalled.
Zoi’s goal to become an Olympic champion emerged at Wanaka Primary School, when she drew a picture of herself snowboarding before the Olympic rings, her mother said.
“She was a big soccer player and probably her first dream was always to be a professional athlete. She loved sport.”
The couple enjoyed skiing and snowboarding with their five children as a family.
The family moved from North America to Wanaka in 2008 and lived two doors along from top snowboarders Will Jackways and Abby Lockwood, who let the children use their skateboard mini-ramp.
“Abby and Will were always very encouraging of the kids,” Robin said.
The couple have talked with Zoi on the phone several times since Sunday, when she won the women’s slopestyle gold medal New Zealand’s first Winter Olympic gold.
Wanaka fan zone: Page 20
“She is over the moon,” Robin said.
“She is feeling good, decompressing now. She is not even thinking about the big air [scheduled for Monday and Tuesday next week].
“She is staying chilled,” Sean said.
The sport was hard on her body but Zoi had managed to avoid serious injuries, they said.
“Someone rang up after and said was going to completely explode on that landing. Is she OK?’.
“Yes, she is OK,” her father said.
“She has been lucky,” her mother said.
“She has done her shoulder, dislocated her elbow . . . and prior to the northern hemisphere season she fractured her tibial platform,” she said.
Zoi rested and recovered well, did light duties and delayed her departure overseas until mid-November.
Sean said preparation for Beijing had been stressful, as the New Zealand athletes negotiated Covid various restrictions, lockdowns and self-isolation periods in Europe and North American.
One team member returned a positive and a negative Covid result on the same day and plans were changing almost daily, he said.
Eventually, the athletes formed a car caravan and drove separately across the United States to fly from Los Angeles to Tokyo, then on to Beijing, he said.