TODAY |

Her world champion title is "just life" for Sadowski-Synnott, the world number one of women's Snowboard Slopestyle.

The Winter Olympic bronze medallist describes slopestyle as a combination of jumps and rails put into a course, giving athletes the freedom to engage their creativity into the sport.

"You have to be good at everything, you have to be good at jumping, good at riding rails and sometimes transition features like half pipe rules," she said.

"You just put down your best run, your best tricks on each feature."

At just 17, she took out the women’s slopestyle at the World Snowboard Championships held in the US in March, 2019, the youngest athlete on the podium by eight years.

"When I get a result, I soak it in in the moment and then just look forward to the next thing," Sadowski-Synnott said. 

"I just do it because I love snowboarding, it’s so fun and such a free sport, you get to be creative in your own way – go off big jumps and have the best time ever while competing.

"It’s not really a job for me, it’s what I do because I love it. I get to choose what I want to do, I’m doing what I want. It’s a pretty free life."

Courtney Duncan's rise to the top came after struggling through three years of injury, but now the Dunedin local dominates the world stage.

"My first race into the world championship was start of 2016, I debuted and went one-for-one. It was a picture perfect weekend.

"To go in and win your first race is an unbelievable feeling. Since then it was a downwards slope," Duncan said.

Duncan was plagued with injuries, four ACL operations which can take an athlete out of sport for about nine months, as well as six months recovering from a lisfranc (midfoot injuries) since her strong start.

"The drive itself never goes, but it’s difficult to come back every time. When you’re off the bike for that long you’re sitting on the couch and your competition, they’re getting faster as you speak.

"People expected big things out of me, honestly I expected big things out of myself. It’s been tough but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

"This season I’ve seemed to be able to put it all together and show my true potential."

Duncan reigned over the circuit last year, finishing strongly in Turkey’s Women’s Motocross World Championship, giving her a clear lead in the overall standings. She is now ranked number one.

Her advice for aspiring athletes?

"Dream big - I had this dream since I was 12 or 13 that I wanted to be world champion, you go through tough times, people doubt you, you’ll start to doubt yourself.

"But, it’s important that you hold hope and belief and continue to chase those dreams you had as a little kid."

New Zealand 2018 Sailors of the Year Matt Steven, Brad Collins and Dave McDiarmid took out the championship for 18ft skiff sailing in March, 2019 – dominating the JJ Giltinan Championship for a second year in a row.

They won the trophy on day six of racing, with a day to spare.

"We're pretty stoked to take away the title this year, last year there was quite a lot of pressure," Steven said at the time.

"This year we were more relaxed and have had a lot of fun."

The pressure spurred from the 44 year void of a New Zealand win for the JJ Giltinan Championship until 2018 – with Honda Marine the first ever Kiwi team to take home the championship on Sydney Harbour.

The team is aiming for a three-peat win this March.

Confident, in control and there to get the job done – that was the feeling in the gruelling final of the biennial world underwater hockey championships in Quebec.

Elite women’s underwater hockey player Leah Chamberlin-Gunn said the "epic" 2018 final against Britain saw the teams drawn up at full time, which is usually about 30 minutes.

"We both scored twice in that 10 minutes extra, so we had to go to sudden death. Last goal wins, we ended up playing 53 minutes of hockey, we managed to score in the final time to win."

Despite the close ending, Chamberlin-Gunn said there wasn’t a point "where we thought we didn’t have this".

"It was just a matter of everyone doing the jobs to get the job done."

The women’s team had not won the event since 2013, and the men’s team’s stellar performance saw a return of the gold for the first time 2006.

“It’s a really incredible feeling having both of us win at the same time because it’s something we’ve never done before,” Chamberlin-Gunn said, whose husband plays for the men’s team.

The double win didn’t see the sport receive any additional funding, but Chamberlin-Gunn says the teams are eyeing up Gold Coast in 2020 for two world championships in a row.

Already competing at her first Winter Olympics at just 16, Robinson carved her place on the world stage while most people are still at school.

She took out the 2019 World Junior Alpine Skiing Championships for Giant Slalom at 17, paving the way for a silver medal at the World Cup Finals Giant Slalom in Andorra, then onto a gold in Sölden, Austria last October at the World Cup season opener.

The last Kiwi athlete to finish on the podium at a FIS Alpine World Cup was Claudia Riegler in 2002.

On the junior alpine win, Robinson said she “knew (winning) was possible and knew it was a high chance if I skied really well it could happen, so I went in with that point of view”.

“It must’ve worked because I was really comfortable, and confident in my skiing at the time.”

Robinson put the result down to “experience, and getting better technically and tactically”.

It didn’t stop there – in October last year Robinson’s performance got better-and-better, taking out the Audi FIS Alpine World Cup Giant Slalom in Sölden. 

“It’s succeeding and doing really well that pushes you in wanting to be the best.

“There’s nothing quite like the feeling of winning the sport that you love the most, that’s the main motivator.”

Lachie Davidson and Ben McColgan managed to take home their number one title through having a "bit of a laugh" and "a bit of fun" - and it resulted in a "pretty funny story" of taking out the world championship. 

"We woke up in our flat on a Sunday in Palmerston North and decided to go down to the rural games which is held down in the square there, five minutes from the flat and have a look at the shearing and sheep dogs," McColgan said. 

"We saw the egg throwing stand, it was a have-a-go comp, we ended up winning that and going through to the New Zealand nationals two hours later."

The boys came second in the New Zealand national event, a feat they were "pretty stoked with". A month later they got the call up to head over to England to compete in the World Egg Throwing Champs.

Lachie and McColgan went down to their local park three times a week for training, as they prepared to battle it against the English, Canadians, Australians, Russians and the Dutch 2018 World Champions.

In the final, McColgan, a former wicket-keeper, caught Lachie’s 60m throw against Canada, securing New Zealand the title.

"It was a complete fluke-chance really, we were just entering it for a bit of a laugh, we thought we might be kind of alright at it, even though we hadn’t done it before," Lachie said.

"We’ve both grown up being quite sporty people, watching rugby, watching the All Blacks, aspiring to be All Blacks or represent New Zealand in anyway.

"To be able to say at 21 we’ve done that and won a world championship, it’s a good story, we’re not taking it too serious," Lachie said. "We’re really happy to represent New Zealand and do well even if it’s in a pretty novelty sport."

The boys are planning to give it another crack next year for a back-to-back world title.