Kiwi Olympians blasted for being ‘on an expensive ski holiday’

Kiwi Olympians blasted by NZ Herald columnist for bombing spectacularly and daring to enjoy the Olympic experience. DEAR DANA YOU JUST DON’T GET IT.

Dana Johannsen, columnist for the NZ Herald who by her own Twitter admission does not fully comprehend snow sports, says watching the New Zealand Winter Olympians is “like watching a bunch of Kiwis on an expensive skiing holiday than a bunch of top athletes representing their nation at the highest level.” You will find this gem in her latest column blasting her Olympic countrymen published today.

First things first, I am an Aussie and some would believe we should rejoice at such a piece but here’s the thing Dana, when the Aussies aren’t competing we’re going for the Kiwis. Hell, our country and your country are even sharing siblings with Amy Sheehan competing for us and Lyndon Sheehan competing for you. Janina Kuzma was also born in Australia so we will claim her too, like we claim Keith Urban, pavlova and Russell Crowe.

I, like so many who know and have watched the free ski and snowboard athletes in action in the four years prior to Sochi, know what it has taken them to achieve their results in order to just qualify for the Olympics. There is no easy pathway to Olympic status.

“We see them at the end of their runs, sticking out their tongues, waving to the camera with “hi Mum and Dad” written on their hands, and theatrically shrugging their shoulders when their score puts them out of contention. Their twitter feeds are full of selfies and really rad instagram pics.”

The gripe of Dana’s article focuses on freestyle skiing and snowboarding and new disciplines ski and snowboard slopestyle where athletes risk their lives on huge jumps that take years of training and courage to master. Free skiers and snowboarders share a love of mountain life and a laid back attitude. The culture is ‘new school’ not ‘old school’ and very different to that of the legendary ski racing fraternity of old though this does not mean the skill and talent required is any less. 

But in the words of slopestyle skier and Australian Olympian, Russ Henshaw “if it’s not fun why would I do it?” So shoot the athletes for having the good time they’ve earned and posting it on social media. But then have you ever seen someone post a bad photo of themselves on Facebook or Instagram? Social media is about press releasing your life and having fun with your fans.

Byron Wells, brother to Jossi Wells (who Dana seems to have a bigger gripe with) had to pull out of ski pipe this week and posted some very humbling social media messages. So clearly it is not all good times in the Kiwi camp.

byron bay facebook

Not how I pictured this day. Devastated. Thought I would be lacing up with everyone else. Kill it for me boys. @jossiwells @beaujameswells @padamcrook @mike_riddle @justin_dorey @noahbowmanski @torinwallace @urmotherlovesme @aj_kemppainen
Not how I pictured this day. Devastated. Thought I would be lacing up with everyone else. Kill it for me boys. @jossiwells @beaujameswells @padamcrook @mike_riddle @justin_dorey @noahbowmanski @torinwallace @urmotherlovesme @aj_kemppainen

Let’s talk more about Jossi because Dana sure did.

“the biggest disappointment so far was when Jossi Wells, one of just a couple of competitors with an outside shot of a medal, waved the white flag in his second run in the final of the slopestyle skiing. Wells qualified 10th for the 12-man final and, after an early slip-up in his first run, needed to produce something special on his second to get into medal contention. Instead, Wells caught a ski on the early rail section and opted to coast for the rest of the course, declining to exhibit any of the spectacular jumps he produced in qualifying.” 

The reason competitors choose not to complete their chosen run of ‘spectacular’ tricks in slopestyle, when they know by mishap on their second run that they can’t beat the score on their first run, is because they don’t want to risk injury. Jossi had another competition, ski halfpipe, to go after slopestyle.

A competition, incidentally, that he came fourth overall in, just missing the third place podium with an extremely stylish run. He wouldn’t have got that fourth place if he, like others on the slopestyle course in spring conditions, had injured himself.

Did we mention that Jossi skis consistently in pain, enduring patella tendinopathy on a daily basis, a condition that causes extreme knee pain and a condition he has had since the age of fifteen? Did we also mention that he has worked tirelessly to get his sport recognised at an Olympic level?

This is what Jossi posted on Twitter after the finals, hardly the words of a gung ho don’t give a rats athlete.

Jossi Wells

This is what he posted before the finals. A moving post dedicating his run to his brother Byron who had to pull out and to Hamish Bagley, the seventeen year old Kiwi snowboarder who lost his life in a car crash this week.


Lucky for disappointed Dana that there are still two other Wells Brothers coming up the ranks Beau James and Jackson Wells. An incredible achievement from one family to have three sons in one Olympics and another biting at their heels.

So here’s an idea, we’ll swap you Russell Crowe for Jossi Wells and you can start really complaining.

Featured home page image of Jossi Wells @jossiwells instagram

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Rachael Oakes-Ash is the name behind @misssnowitall and the founder of A long time travel and lifestyle journalist and ski writer, she's been published in ESPN, TIME, Wallpaper*, Action Asia, Inside Sport, Australian Financial Review, Emirates Open Skies, Conde Nast Traveler and more. She was the Fairfax snow blogger from 2007 to 2017 and the Southern Hemisphere editor for OnTheSnow. Rachael is also a documentary producer, author, radio announcer and humorist.


  1. It is a pity that journalists are now generalised…they write about subjects they have little to no knowledge. This to say the least this is a personal opinion, but make it clear. This type of skiing, snowboarding requires a very special type of person (Years ago I did it) and now what we did looks like a Sunday stroll. The skill and courage needed are high consequently the old saying work hard play hard. Applies to all risk takers. Personally I think they all have a screw loose (Compliment no offence) it is just incredible and keeps getting better. To all of you participating thanks from a very envious jealous old man. Please continue.

  2. I must admit a felt a little bit similar to the journo’s (i don’t like journos’ )but the kids seemed very unprofessional compared to the racers and most of the other competitors they almost looked like they couldn’t believe they were actually there, sort of self depreciating?! Im an old racer, not to Olympic standards..:)

    • Clearly Lui you are an old racer… but hey so too am I… 🙂 if I had made it to the Olympics…I’m not sure what I would of been like in front of the camera’s either, I mean come on we come from NZ we’re very open and quite animated. The fact that people are prepared to criticise this crew of great young athlete’s on how they came across on TV , because of excitement, awe, disbelief, is ridiculous….. Clearly you and I never made the Olympics….. 🙂 So why can’t we just all say ‘Well done you lot, your awesome’! let them have fun, let them enjoy what they are doing, and lets all just say “Hooray” for getting to be some of the best Athlete’s in the world to start with!!!!

    • That is the difference between our sport and yours. We never did think that our sport would be in the Olympics, and that was totally fine with all of us. We were and still are content to have fun and compete with our friends for the sake of friendly competition.

      To all of a sudden have what we do everyday with our friends earn us a spot in the Olympics is truly mind-blowing and is fairly unbelievable. We want to make sure that our sport remains what it is: the misfit result of mogul skiers and racers wanting to get away from regulations. That in mind, why should the competitors let the Olympics change the reason they take part in this sport?

      What I saw was not a disappointing display in comparison to the racers, but in fact an astounding show of sportsmanship. Every skier wanted to win on the world stage, yet when they didn’t do so, they didn’t get frustrated or angry, they congratulated their friends and fellow competitors wholeheartedly-something you don’t see in the majority of other events.

  3. I’m embarrassed by the state of sports journalism in New Zealand, if Dana Johannsen represents it. It’s like watching a 3 year old, with a box of felt tip pens, “on an expensive (& partially tax payer funded) Journalism Course”. Where’s the research and integrity? To say Jossi Wells just coasted the course shows complete lack of understanding of the dangers involved in the sport.
    Thank you Rachael Oaks-Ash for providing some balance. Will expect to see a retraction and apology in NZ Herald. Otherwise we may have to put this NZ journalist on a pair of sticks at the top of a half pipe and give her a push. Hope her edges are as sharp as her tongue.

  4. Awesome run Jossi! Our 3 yo son Joss got his an okay on his name because there was a famous nz skier called Jossi Wells…hope he does as well as his namesake! As for Dana…sounds like she wrote the article while on holiday.

  5. That’s totally ignorant journalism. Don’t write about things you don’t research.
    She needs to write an apology. When did NZ last get results that good.

  6. Everyone who is competing in the olympics, EVERYONE, had to work like crazy just to get there. Dismissing olympic athletes, would they be snowboarders as too laid back is just preposterous.

  7. As far as I know many, many athletes have to do their own fundraising to go to their international events, so this woman is totally out to lunch. She has no idea about the commitment and dedication it takes to compete at this level!

  8. I’ve met a lot of freestyle skiers and snowboarders over the years doing their training for World Cup and Olympic qualifying. Most get very little sponsorship and are forced to stay in backpacker hostels whilst the old school ski race teams are fully sponsored ritzing it up in posh hotels. They don’t have minders and a huge ski team behind them micromanaging their media image, they are just normal people with a passion for doing some crazy things. These guys and gals work incredibly hard and if Dana Johannsen ever made the effort to go and see a half pipe or slope style course she wouldn’t be so damning of them. Also, the Wells family are not well off, but are doing it hard to support their kids’ passions.

  9. Great rebuttal to a dodgy article. Just because you’re a journalist doesn’t make you an expert on the topic you’re reporting. It sucks to see someone bash their own country’s olympic athletes out of complete ignorance. Next time you write an article bashing a topic, Dana, at least make an effort to research your argument.

  10. Hi Rachael,

    This was a great response to a horrible piece of “journalism”. I cannot believe the herald published a story when the writer clearly knows NOTHING about winter sport. I have written a complaint to the herald where I echo your sentiments pretty closelyy.

  11. Dana, you have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. Your analysis of some of the sickest skiing in the whole event is just ridiculous and so far at the other end of the spectrum from reality that I can’t believe it was even published.

    Do you even ski? Have you ever heard of Johnny Mosley? Wiki him. Learn a thing or two about the sport before you blast some of its biggest stars for carrying on his tradition and the longer-running tradition of freesking.

    Just because YOU can’t see that a run was “difficult” or because it didn’t fit into a certain judging criteria, doesn’t mean it wasn’t “difficult” or “medal worthy”. But of course you must not be able to see that with your obviously lacking familiarity with the tradition, mentality, and actual execution of the sport.

    there is more than one type of difficult, and just because he lacked about 4,000 degrees of rotation from his slope run doesn’t mean it wasn’t JUST as difficult. He slipped up early and took the opportunity to ski outside the box. GOOD FOR HIM!!!!!! GOOD FOR THE SPORT, GOOD FOR NEW ZEALAND!!!

    if it wasn’t for Johnny Mosley skiing “outside the box” back when he did that fateful mute 360 (assuming you know what that means) we wouldn’t even have an olympic halfpipe skiing competition.

    literally the dumbest article I’ve ever read, written by someone who clearly has no knowledge of either the history OR the current state of freeskiing.

    the wells ARE pushing the sport on the olympic stage, just because you are too ignorant to understand HOW, and too uninformed about the sport to see that there is more than one direction to push it, doesn’t mean you have to write a globally viewed article blasting them. Bad form Dana. Bad Form.

    All you’ve succeeded in is making your country and countrymen look bad to non-skiiers, because all the real fans of the sport love what the kiwis have done in the olympics. Most skiers stop their run when they screw up. (if you actually watched competitive freeskiing you would know this.) JOSSI GAVE THE WORLD A SHOW OF A DIFFERENT ASPECT OF THE SPORT, ONE THAT DESERVES EQUAL RESPECT AND EXPOSURE.

    He used a special opportunity (MULTIPLE TIMES) and a bummer for him personally, to do a great service to our sport. He showed the that freeskiing has more facets and more depth as far as what defines “difficulty” and “style” than just double-cork after double-cork after double-cork. (again, assuming you know what a double-cork is.)

    Garbage. Dana you couldn’t be more wrong. You should be proud of your athletes. Not just for their innovation and bravery but for their actual results!!!!

    You think the swedes are blasting Henrik Harlaut for 4th place in slopestyle? noooope.

    You’re the classless loser, not the wells brothers.

  12. Wtf is this crazy on. They desrve to be there! He must be a top athlete if he came forth? I thought so. I dont know how someone can jusy bag them, maybe a family member of hers didnt make it in so taking it out on the ones that did make it.

  13. Dana, you are extremely judgemental, ignorant of your subject matter, a lousy journalist and I’d be very unhappy to share the nationality of Kiwi with you, thankfully I don’t because you’re not. 🙁

  14. Sums up what we see on the news, when most International sport people lose they are devastated, (all blacks, black sox) but not most of the kiwis thou, they look like they could care less, we’ll make them pay their own way and then see who cares if they win or lose, see if their attitude changes if they’re cash is on the line.

  15. Wow – what an awful article by Dana Johannsen. I thought the New Zealand Herald was supposed to represent a high standard in journalism. That article is filled with nothing but uninformed and inaccurate opinion. If you look at facts…. the official published results for the men’s halfpipe… in the top ten – 2 Americans, 2 Canadians, 2 French, 1 Norwegian and THREE New Zealanders! It would be more accurate to suggest that New Zealand is the best in the world in this event (and the Wells family the best family in the world in this event). Sure , best in the world could be debated, but it’s a far better headline and just as accurate. New Zealand should take immense pride in these athletes. And for those who choose to publicly treat a 4th place finisher or anyone who doesn’t win gold as a failure, you should take a read of the blog of an Australian Olympic “failure” (not a failure at all!!) and really think about how these “failures” view themselves.

    They don’t need to be beaten down by “journalists” that admit to not having sufficient experience or knowledge to cover an event. Perhaps if the journalists spent a fraction of the time preparing for the Olympics as the athletes, there would be professional reporting.

  16. At the end of the day the ultimate responsibility for this article having been published lies with the editor. I am voting with my feet and will never buy a NZ Herald again.

  17. I couldn’t agree more with Dana Johannsens sentiments.

    I find it laughable that these little dirtbag snowbunnies are getting all wound up over some comments which are actually completely accurate.

    Consider this from one of those annoying Wells kids:

    Byron Wells ‏@byronjwells · Feb 18
    Hey @djohannsenNZH @JossiWells just came 4th In an event he hardly skis. Have some respect for us risking our lives representing our country

    What a pathetic, precious statement from somebody who should really be expressing his gratitude to the New Zealand taxpayer for funding his little outing in the snow.

    Anybody would think he’s off to fight the Taleban.

    Get a life jerk.

    • Jimmy Conway,

      As a parent of a winter athlete, let me tell you, you have absolutely no idea. Most of them are self-funded and as a single mother, that means that I make sacrifices so that my child has the opportunities that are simply handed to a lot of elite athletes that compete in summer olympic sports.

      I suggest that both you and Dana do some research rather than speaking out on a topic in a way that highlights your ignorance so blindingly. I find it disappointing that people like you somehow become snowsport experts whenever the Winter Olympics roll around. Do yourself a favour and only make comment on subjects that you actually do have some knowledge of so you don’t come of as a completely laughable pratt.

      • Good reply to Conway, regret I made no comment earlier as I simply gave it the contempt it was due. If Conway only spoke about what he knew I am afraid he would never be heard from again. Conway & in this case Dana should remember the old cliche “Better keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool rather than open it and let the whole world know” I am sorry for Dana as she normally is very good at what she does and the Americas cup was just one example.

  18. If anybody is going to be seen as a fool JW, then you only have to read the outpouring of vitriol on the Facebook page these reprobates have started.

    A large number are derogatory, defamatory and threaten physical violence and it is my understanding that the Police are already following up on some of those of a criminal nature.

    Unbelievably, there is one such post from “Possum” Torr, a New Zealand “athlete”.

    Unfortunately for them, New Zealand is a very small place and sponsors connections run far and wide.

    Here’s hoping this is the last we hear from these drugged up showponies.


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