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Zoi Sadowski-Synnott’s next big challenge

Our winter Olympic whizz kid shares her plans beyond the slopes

As New Zealand’s very first gold medallist at a Winter Olympics, 22-year-old snowboarder Zoi Sadowski-Synnott is used to being surrounded by snow, and covered up in scarves and heavy jackets.

But when the Weekly catches up with the champion on a video call, she is holidaying in the tropical island of Sumbawa in Indonesia, sporting a glowing tan and a huge smile.

“I normally don’t get to enjoy the summer,” she says. “I’m usually travelling around the world, competing and chasing winters. So I’m really stoked to be here.”

Zoi has even ditched the snowboard for a surfboard and will be enjoying riding the waves for two weeks.

“I will try and get out to surf,” she tells. “It’s inspiring for me and makes me hungry when I return to competition.”

Our golden girl deserves a holiday after winning gold in the women’s slopestyle event at the 2022 Winter Olympics, aged just 20.

She further cemented her place in the New Zealand history books by winning a silver medal in the Big Air event at the same Olympics. This came after winning bronze at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, when she was still a high- school student and her successes have made her the first Kiwi to not only win a gold medal, but multiple medals at a Winter Games.

She did it! Zoi shows off her gold medal.

“I’m still on a high,” admits Zoi about being on top of the Olympic podium and proudly waving the Kiwi flag in February last year.

“I have achieved something that I’ve dreamed about since I started snowboarding at eight years old. It’s the craziest feeling in the world.

“You’ve worked towards something your whole life and when you are standing on the podium, you think about all of the people who helped you get there. It’s very special.”

Born in Australia to a Kiwi father and an American mother, Zoi moved to Wānaka with her family when she was six. The fourth of five children, she followed her older siblings into snowboarding and loved competing with them.

“I was also a really shy child,” she reflects. “I never pushed myself out of my comfort zone. But when I was on the snow, my confidence shone through.”

Snowboarding is a physically demanding sport that requires agility and aerial coordination. Of course, Zoi looked up to Kiwi women who also competed in the sport, but one of her main role models has been another Zoi – Zoe Bell, New Zealand’s most famous stuntwoman who is a regular in Quentin Tarantino’s films, and has featured in Hollywood blockbusters like Kill Bill and Thor.

Zoi admires her physical fitness as well as her daring and adventurous nature.

“She’s pretty amazing at what she does and I’ve been inspired by her,” shares Zoi. “But I don’t think I will end up being a stuntwoman. I don’t think I have it in me!”

For now, Zoi is focusing on her busy and successful snowboarding career. She spends eight months of the year travelling to mountain ranges around the world to compete and train. When she returns to Wānaka, she lives by herself and enjoys her own company.

She loves reading autobiographies, and cites the books written by tennis champion Andre Agassi and Red Hot Chili Peppers Anthony Kiedis as her favourites.

She also enjoys spending time with her boyfriend of two years, Ben Richards. He’s also an elite sportsperson, travelling the world and competing in the free-ride skiing world circuit. Being in the same industry, Zoi says he knows what pressure she is under.

Boyfriend Ben is chasing the same dream.

“He’s a great support,” she tells. “We both travel and understand each other’s lives. It’s awesome.”

Surprisingly, snowboarding wasn’t Zoi’s first love.

During her first years in Australia, she loved football and dreamed of representing her country.

That dream was never realised, but Zoi achieved the next best thing. She was asked to become a “Beyond Greatness Champion”, one of the inspirational women from New Zealand and Australia chosen to help promote the FIFA Women’s World Cup being hosted in both nations from July 20.

Zoi at the FIFA Women’s Cup draw in Auckland.

As an Olympic champion, Zoi has reached the pinnacle in women’s sports. She says she is honoured to help promote the FIFA World Cup, one of the biggest sporting events to be hosted in the Southern Hemisphere and one that continues to push equity within women’s sports.

“Women’s sport is growing at a whole other level,” she asserts. “I’m stoked to be welcoming these international women’s teams to New Zealand.”

As for her future? Being an Olympic gold medallist at 20 has given Zoi the determination to continue to strive in her sport. But as a fan of autobiographies, she admits she’s not quite ready to pen her own tell-all.

“I’m still young,” she concedes. “I feel like I don’t have enough stories to write an interesting autobiography. I think I need to live life a bit more before I sit down and write my story.”

To purchase tickets to a game, visit fifa.com

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