Nico Porteous has claimed New Zealand's second ever gold medal at the Winter Olympics, winning the men's freeski halfpipe final in Beijing this afternoon.
The Wanaka freeskier had an impeccable first run on the Olympic course, landing a thrilling combination of back-to-back 1620s, to score 93 points. He crashed out on his third run, but held onto that lead to win the gold.
GOLDNico Porteous has just made Beijing 2022 New Zealand’s most successful Olympic Winter Games ever by winning the Men’s freeski halfpipe!— The New Zealand Team (@TheNZTeam) February 19, 2022
What a moment – what an athlete
#Earned #EarnTheFern #KoTātauTeKapaOAotearoa pic.twitter.com/Kkq2eb8G5P
Porteous is the reigning world champion and now has a gold to match the bronze he won in Pyeongchang four years ago
"I'm so, so happy and I'm currently over the moon. I still can't really believe it," said Porteous
"The weather conditions were tough today. It was very slow and it was quite challenging. But I stomped what I knew and tried my best and left everything out there," the 20-year-old said, noting that Saturday was the coldest day this season.
Porteous's older brother Miguel also competed in the competition, coming 11th.
"I think that's anyone's dream. Especially in those moments, I'll never forget something like that. That's a lifetime memory that will never go away," Nico said.
"[I'm] really proud to call him my brother."
The New Zealand team performed a haka in honour of Nico's achievement at the bottom of the run.
Nico and Miguel's mother and father, Chris and Andrew Porteous, were nervously watching the action on a big screen in Wanaka.
They said they were incredibly proud of their sons.
"I think it's four years of work, planning, and to pull it off in 30 seconds, it's credit to him, [coach] Tommy, and Miguel. It's unbelievable."
Bridget Legnavsky, the general manager of the Cardrona and Treble Cone skifields where Nico trains, believes people will now view New Zealand in a different light.
"I think what it does is it puts New Zealand on the world stage, now people are wondering what's going on down here, we're not just ... what people used to think of as a tropical island, we are a serious world-class ski destination so it's awesome for us."
Silver medallist 'really impressed by Nico's skiing'
Defending champion David Wise, who won gold in the halfpipe at both the Pyeongchang and Sochi Games, took silver with 90.75 after the American was unable to beat the New Zealander in his final run.
"It's a whole lot better than no medal at all," Wise told reporters after the final.
Wise agreed, describing the conditions as "wild".
He said Porteous impressed him because he did not hold back.
"Really impressed by Nico's skiing today. He pretty much did the run he wanted to do in spite of the wind, whereas myself and Alex [Ferreira] scaled back a little bit.
"If anything, when it's really windy, it's kind of a little bit of an advantage for me," Wise said in reference to his 20kg weight advantage over his competitors.
Alex Ferreira of the United States, who took the bronze with his best run score of 86.75, said it was a "super difficult" final despite having prepared for bad weather conditions.
"Everyone feels same amount of pressure," the 27-year-old skier said.
"My goal was to get the gold and I didn't get it but to get on the podium under these conditions feels like I got the gold."
Skiers soared over a giant halfpipe as frosty wind pushed air temperatures down to -22 degree Celsius. Several skiers crashed and fell into the pipe from the outset and many of them commented on the strong wind.
American Aaron Blunck, who dropped into the halfpipe last on Saturday, crashed and fell to the bottom of the pipe. After a few moments surrounded by medical staff, the American skied down the course to applause from his teammates and rivals.
Porteous' gold medal is only the second for New Zealand at the Winter Olympics, after Zoi Sadowski-Synnott won the country's first ever Winter Olympics Gold in the women's slopestyle event.
Sadowski-Synnott has also won a silver medal at the Beijing Olympics, with a big performance in the women's snowboard Big Air final.
-RNZ / Reuters / ABC