Zoi Sadowski-Synnott: New Zealand's snowboard superstar who's changing the face of the sport

New Zealand's first Olympic Winter Games gold medallist "stoked" to add big air silver but believes more is to come in years ahead.

By Will Davies
Picture by 2022 Getty Images

Zoi Sadowski-Synnott has changed her own life at Beijing 2022, but also the lives of many New Zealanders and indeed snowboarders right around the world.

The 20-year-old became New Zealand’s first-ever gold medal winner at an Olympic Winter Games with a dominant performance in the women’s snowboard slopestyle competition.

She then backed it up with a silver medal in the women’s big air event on Tuesday (15 February), behind winner Anna Gasser of Austria, and believes there's a lot more to come from the current generation of young athletes.

"The progression from four years ago is pretty sick." Sadowski-Synnott said

There's been quite a jump in progression and I don’t think that will really slow down so I'm excited for the next ones."

Having also won a bronze medal in big air at her Winter Olympics debut at PyeongChang 2018, then aged 16, Sadowski-Synnott is the only woman representing New Zealand to have won multiple medals at the Olympic Winter Games.

"I'm pretty stoked with my performance," she said after adding the Beijing 2022 big air silver to her medal haul.

"I set the goal of doing my best tricks and I feel like I achieved that. Coming into big air I wanted to do the same but just missed the back 12. I'm pretty stoked nonetheless."

There’s also been a jump in standing for the young star, who is perhaps now as marketable an athlete in New Zealand as anyone, given her success, age, approach to the sport and outlook on life.

"To win New Zealand's first Winter Olympic gold means so much to me and I can't believe that I managed to do it. I'm just super proud to be Kiwi and I hope I made everyone at home proud," she said.

"It was the best run of my life."

"I am super proud of where my snowboarding has come in the last few years and super proud to be Kiwi and show the world what Kiwis are made of." - Zoi Sadowski-Synnott

Born in Sydney, Australia, Sadowski-Synnott moved with her family to the New Zealand town of Wanaka when she was six.

Her mother, Robin Sadowski, who is from the USA, and father Sean Synnott, who is from New Zealand, met in the Canadian resort town of Whistler, where the family went to holiday every year until Zoi was eight, and where she learned to ski.

At the age of nine she started snowboarding and after watching her brothers perform tricks, she became hooked and wanted to go bigger and better than them.

Her international debut came in 2016, before the Olympic Winter Games debut at PyeongChang 2018, where at age 16 years and 353 days she briefly became New Zealand's youngest-ever Olympic medallist, breaking the previous record of 17 years 100 days set by Danyon Loader at the Olympic Games Barcelona 1992.

Sadowski-Synnott’s record was broken an hour later on the same day by Nico Porteous at age 16 years 91 days, who won bronze in freestyle skiing halfpipe.

Sadowski-Synnott then became New Zealand’s youngest-ever flagbearer when she led her nation out at the Closing Ceremony of PyeongChang 2018.

Since then, she has won a host of world championship medals, X Games golds, and other major event titles, and is central to the athletes going faster, more technical, and bigger in all of their tricks.

"With snowboarding there's so many more tricks that we can do — the boys have shown that — but I think it's really up to the girls pushing each other and that's what we all came here to do today,” she said in China.

The camaraderie within the sport is also being driven higher, with stirring scenes throughout competition at Beijing 2022 of rivals hugging each other and embracing each other in celebration.

It happened for Sadowski-Synnott when she won her gold medal in slopestyle, with silver medallist Julia Marino and bronze medallist Tess Coady lovingly tackling her to the snow.

“That was a pretty special moment and probably I'll never forget. It was just so amazing and special."

Keep up with all the action in our Live Blog updates throughout Beijing 2022, here.

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