Olympics in snowboarder’s sights

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The pressure is on for rising snowboard cross star Duncan Campbell, who is on the verge of qualifying for the Winter Olympics.

Campbell is ranked No 54 in the world for snowboard cross.

Snowboard cross is a competition where four to six snowboarders race down a tight course with steep and flat sections, making it challenging to avoid collisions while maintaining speed.

Campbell will take part in three Snowboard Cross World Cup events next month, all in the space of two weeks.

“Depending on how those events go, I should be right for qualifying and competing in the Winter Olympics,” Campbell said.

Campbell, who grew up in Queenstown, began training at Cardrona, first doing freestyle before specialising in snowboard cross.

When in New Zealand he trains at the High Performance Sport NZ training centre in Wanaka.

He joined an international private team because New Zealand did not have a national team for snowboard cross, he said.

“I’m the only Kiwi doing this sport at this level.”

Campbell (20) has been travelling to Europe for the past five years to hone his skills.

“We’ve just spent two weeks at Hintertux, one of the glaciers in Austria,” he said.

“And then we’ve come to Finland to a race course here, and we are running much more race-orientated drills, fine-tuning things that need to be fixed for the upcoming World Cups.”

He would soon be travelling to Vel Thorens in France for the first of the three World Cups, being held on December 13.

The second World Cup would be held in Montafon in Austria and the third at the Cervinia glacier in Italy.

“There is quite a bit of pressure, especially in an Olympic year,” Campbell said.

“Every other nation, every other athlete, they have criteria to meet as well as I have to, and they are trying as hard as they can to get there.

It was a somewhat lonely life being a member of the team, but having the internet and good teammates made it easier.

“You end up spending more and more time with [your teammates], and you catch up with them all over the world.

“With how the internet is now it is reasonably easy to catch up with friends and family back home.

“I miss my dog probably more than people,” he joked.

Although his focus was on the Winter Olympics, he also had an eye on his future, Campbell said.

With the help of a Prime Minister’s Scholarship, he was gaining a commercial pilot’s licence, training with Wanaka Helicopters.

“I got a whole bunch more hours done at Wanaka Helicopters, which is fantastic,” Campbell said.

“It’s not the cheapest endeavour, so the Prime Minister’s Scholarship has been really helpful.”

But in the meantime, he was loving doing what came naturally to him, out on the slopes.

“I always like the saying: ‘If you love what you do, you’re not really working a day in your life’ – and this definitely isn’t work. I’m chasing that moment of flow, where everything else fades away and you’re not focused on anything other than the one thing you are trying to do,” Campbell said.