'No one remembers who got fourth' - NZ's Winter Olympics Chef de Mission determined to end medal drought

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NZN

Close, but not close enough has been the early theme of New Zealand's PyeongChang campaign and Pete Wardell wants the rot to stop.

The New Zealand Chef de Mission says three events in particular pose great medal chances.
Source: Breakfast

The country twice narrowly missed snaring its first Winter Olympic medal in 26 years when snowboarder Carlos Garcia Knight and speed skater Peter Michael finished in the top five on day two of the Games.

Both were in gold medal positions well into events but overtaken, with Garcia Knight making a simple but costly error on his final slopestyle run and Michael hampered by a slow middle section of his 5000m race.

The results echoed the potential-filled campaign of Sochi 2014, when freeskier Janina Kuzma was fifth after holding the bronze medal position for much of the halfpipe final and Jossi Wells finished fourth in the men's event.

Chef de mission Wardell praised the athletes for their "absolutely exceptional" showings in South Korea but was regretful two medal chances slipped by.

"We didn't come here just to get the T-shirt," Wardell told NZ Newswire.

"We want to get medals, there's no two ways about it. We're definitely on for medals and we're really, really close.

"Fourth's the worst place. No one remembers who got fourth at a Commonwealth Games or Olympics. It's just the way it is."

New Zealand, which has only one Winter Olympic medal, has taken a young team to South Korea, with three 16-year-olds among the 21 athletes.

One of those is promising snowboarder Zoi Sadowski-Synnott, who admitted to being intimidated by high winds before finishing 13th in Monday's slopestyle despite being one of the brightest medal hopes.

Wardell acknowledged some athletes would be better positioned for medal tilts at Beijing 2022.

But he has not given up the prospect of PyeongChang being the country's best Games since Albertville 1992 when alpine skier Annelise Coberger won silver.

"You saw today in the women's slopestyle, the old athletes prevailed," Wardell said.

"The youngsters struggled in tough conditions and both Zoi's runs, she slipped off the rails which is normally bread and butter for her

"We've got three athletes who are 16 and certainly Beijing and beyond will be what they're really focusing on. But they can still upset some of the old girls and boys on this tour.

"We've probably got six, eight, 10 chances yet for medals, so we're not out of the hunt yet."

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