NZ - Freestyle learning at Te Kura

As New Zealand’s state distance education provider, and the country’s largest school, Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu (Te Kura) supports more than 23,000 ākonga (students) with their learning every year.

Located throughout New Zealand and overseas, our ākonga come from a wide range of backgrounds and have diverse learning needs, which we support through personalised learning programmes based on their interests, passions and goals.

Our ākonga and their whānau (families) have been affected in different ways during the COVID-19 disruptions. Many ākonga had to change or cancel plans at short notice, and find ways to adapt their learning programmes to accommodate government restrictions.

Te Kura ākonga Liam Richards shares his story:

“I started skiing when I was two and I really loved all the jumps, even when I was really young. I moved to New Zealand when I was seven and started training at Snowplanet in Freestyle skiing. That was my first time to test out whether I liked jumps or not. In that year I learnt my first 360s and a backflip. I then went to Cardrona in the South Island for the New Zealand Junior Freeski Nationals and I really enjoyed it. At that point I decided that I really wanted to get better at freestyle skiing.

I started training hard at Snowplanet when I was up in the North Island and at Cardrona when I was down in the South Island. It was hard work, but also really fun. When I was 11, I joined the New Zealand National Development Team (aka ND Crew). This crew changes all the time, but it is made up of a group of my good skiing friends. Even though this is an individual sport, and we compete against each other, we still train and help each other out. Joining the ND Crew meant that I was away a lot, especially in Term 3, and therefore I was unable to attend school in the North Island. This is why I joined Te Kura.

During the summer, the whole ND Crew trained in America as there was no snow here in New Zealand. Due to COVID-19, our trip got cut a bit short and we had to come back to New Zealand. During the lockdown, the only way to keep strong and fit was either some running or some biking. We did some bodyweight gym sessions online with the Snow Sports New Zealand (SSNZ) athletes and coaches to keep strong. Also, in my backyard we set up a little rail to slide down in my socks to practise muscle memory for my rail skiing.

The New Zealand winter started a little bit later due to COVID-19, so we didn’t get as much skiing in. This year I have been working on some big tricks. In skiing, we have to be able to spin both ways. My natural way of spinning is left, so I have to work hard spinning right. When we learn a trick, we start by practising it on the trampoline. If it is a bigger trick, we then take it onto an airbag (a big giant pillow that stops your fall so you can’t hurt yourself) and then do it on snow. If it is a smaller trick, we then just take it straight to the normal jump. I have been working on my right cork 720, which is an off-axis right spin for 720°. I have also been practising my left double 1080, which is a cork 720 plus a cork 360 flipping over again. My next trick to work on is a right double 1080, which is the same but just a right spin.”

For further information about Te Kura, please visit our website.