LAKE WANAKA, New Zealand (July 30, 2008) – Day one of the sixth annual Burton NZ Open at Snow Park NZ today saw a varied field of young, and not so young, athletes all vying for a spot in Saturday’s semi-finals alongside some of the world’s best snowboarders.

Ranging in age from 10-year-old Seamus O’Connor to 62-year-old Dick Schulze, both from the USA, the field was diverse for today’s qualifiers, including a large number of strong riders whose performance will set them in good stead against the invited riders in on Saturday.

“Top men’s qualifier, Brennen Swanson (USA) put down a really big, clean run, held all his grabs, never sketched and basically rode the way you need to in a competition of this caliber,” said judge, Ste’en Webster.

Swanson’s run featured a method air, followed by a frontside 900, backside 540, frontside 720, Cab 7 (switch frontside 720), finishing with a Crippler (frontside inverted 540).

The women’s field was dominated by Jiayu Liu (CHN) who put down an extremely strong run that would have turned heads in the men’s field. She got massive amplitude on every hit, holding it for the entire run which included a huge frontside air followed by an equally big backside air, frontside 540 to backside 540 mute grab, a frontside 360, finishing with a Cab 3 melon. 2008 is the first year the Chinese National Team has entered the Open with all three women and one of the two men qualifying for the semi-finals.

Paula Mitchell (Wanaka) was the only New Zealander to qualify and will join fellow Kiwis Juliane Bray, Kendall Brown, Mitchell Brown, Ben Stewart and James Hamilton, all of whom are invited pre-ranked riders.

Neither the youngest nor the eldest competitor made it through the qualifiers although O’Connor received a very respectable 35.33 against a field twice his age. For Schulze, who has traveled the world competing in the Burton Global Open Series, this is his sixth Open event in under a year.

The Burton NZ Open continues tomorrow with the men’s and women’s slopestyle qualifiers. For further information and full results visit www.opensnowboarding.com.