Olympic family affair for Kiwi freestyle ski siblings

Jim SLATER
Bruce Wells had no idea taking his sons along on his snow patrol route in southern New Zealand would one day lead to him coaching his family at the Winter Olympics

Bruce Wells had no idea taking his sons along on his snow patrol route in southern New Zealand would one day lead to him coaching his family at the Winter Olympics.

Three of the high-flying freestyle ski siblings -- Beau-James, Jackson and Byron -- are set to compete at Pyeongchang with a fourth brother, Jossi, absent only with a knee injury.

"It has been absolutely wonderful," coach Wells said. "It's certainly a journey you never expected. I thank them for letting me come along for the ride."

Beau-James, 22, is in ski halfpipe and was selected as New Zealand's flag bearer for the opening ceremony.

"It's just a huge honour," he said.

The 19-year-old Jackson will compete in ski slopestyle.

"It feels great to be beside my brothers coming into my first Olympics," Jackson said. "It's amazing. I wouldn't have it any other way, traveling the world with your brothers and our father to coach us."

Byron, 25, was set to make his Olympic debut at Sochi 2014 but didn't quite make it after falling ill shortly beforehand.

"Bit of a bummer getting sick at breakfast," he said, an understatement. "Hoping to get to the start line this time."

He's looking at this year as a brand-new start.

"I kind of put all of those memories out of my head," Byron said. "I had a pretty rough time after the last Olympics. It's a whole new Olympics."

Absent brother Jossi, at 27 the oldest of the four, won the 2016 Winter X Games slopestyle title and sparked the sport's growth while inspiring his brothers.

"Jossi led the way, he was a true captain to us," his father said.

"I look at my role as support work. He led New Zealand onto the world stage. His brothers have grown up and watched him and become more motivated to put in the work."

And there's nothing like your brother busting your chops to make you get better.

"We all push each other and we're more realistic," Byron said.

"If we're doing something that's not that smart, they'll let us know straight away. It's better than having someone else up there with you."

Coach-dad Wells won't pick a favourite among his boys.

"I'm not going to say any one of them is more talented than the others," Bruce Wells said. "They all put in the hard work and had good results."

And he doesn't see much difference in his coach and father roles.

"I get a little more nervous as coach, especially when they do some of those gnarly things."

Bruce hopes to go one better in 2022 and coach all four brothers at the Beijing Winter Olympics.

"We're looking forward to hauling into China in four years' time," he said.