Swiss Skiers Dominate Australian Championship

FasterSkierAugust 11, 2009

The Australian Cross Country Skiing Championships in Sprint and Mass Start disciplines were held at Falls Creek on August 8-9. It was an exciting weekend of racing, with a strong international field and many close finishes in the head-to-head competitions. In the men’s events Switzerland was the dominant nation, with Valerio Leccardi winning the Sprint and Thomas Diezig winning the 30km Freestyle. In the women’s events Esther Bottomley from Australia won the Sprint and Katherine Calder from New Zealand won the 15km Freestyle. The events were also part of the 2009 FIS Australia – New Zealand Cup (ANC).

Perfect snow conditions greeted the athletes and spectators on both days of competition. After several days with strong wind and new snow the sun came out and the Falls Creek tracks were hard and fast. The fastest qualifying time in the Sprint dropped to two minutes and six seconds, compared to over three minutes in training during the week.

The Swiss men were in great form in the Sprint, qualifying in the first three places and remaining unchallenged through to the A-Final. Other competitors had some bad luck, with Australian number one sprinter Paul Murray breaking a pole in the qualifying round and Wataru Omori from Japan falling in the semi-finals. Mark van der Ploeg was the only Australian in the A-final, coming up against the Swiss trio of Leccardi, Diezig, and Gaudenz Flury. Van der Ploeg fought hard but was unable to make it onto the podium. Leccardi, who narrowly missed the qualification for the Sprint finals at the 2009 World Championship in Liberec by 0.01 of a second, won clearly ahead of Diezig and Flury.

In the women’s Sprint qualification Calder was the fastest skier, posting a time four seconds faster than the reigning Australian Sprint champion Esther Bottomley. However in the A-final Bottomley came out firing, dropping Calder in the first 200m and holding a lead all the way to the finish. Calder closed the gap in the latter part of the race but wasn’t close enough to force a lunge for the line. Third place went to Australian junior d’Arcy Baxter ahead of her older NSW team-mate Aimee Watson.

The men’s 30km Freestyle on Sunday was one of the most exciting championship races witnessed in Australian racing history. 2008 ANC champion Ben Sim and Diezig skied away from the main pack already on the first 7.5km loop, then took turns to attack each other throughout the rest of the race. With neither skier able to make a break it all came down to a finish sprint, and Diezig claimed victory by half a ski length. In contrast Calder won the women’s 15km Freestyle relatively comfortably, just over two minutes ahead of Bottomley. Andrea Fancy from New Zealand took third place in a close race with Watson.

With three rounds down in the 2009 FIS Australia – New Zealand Cup (ANC) there is a close battle for the top places. With his win in the 30km Diezig has taken the lead in the men’s standings from Sim by 30 points, while Bottomley leads by 20 points ahead of Calder. The overall winner of the ANC receives their own personal quota place on World Cup in the 2009/2010 series. Next weekend there are two more rounds of competition at Perisher Valley in Australia before the competition moves over to the Snow Farm in New Zealand. The series concludes with Australia’s international ski marathon, the Kangaroo Hoppet at Falls Creek on August 29.

Men ANC Standings after 3 Competitions:
Place    FIS Code    Name    Nation    Points
1    1327251    Thomas Diezig    SUI    240
2    3040011    Ben Sim    AUS    205
3    3040028    Mark Van Der Ploeg    AUS    176
4    3510067    Valerio Leccardi    SUI    160
5    3040080    Callum Watson    AUS    114

Women ANC Standings after 3 Competitions:

Place    FIS Code    Name    Nation    Points
1    1365178    Esther Bottomley    AUS    280
2    3415003    Katherine Calder    NZE    260
3    3045009    Aimee Watson    AUS    160
4    3045041    d’Arcy Baxter    AUS    131
5    3045056    Lucy Glanville    AUS    126

Australian Sprint Championship, Saturday August 8

Open Women 1.0km Freestyle Sprint – A-Final

1    Esther Bottomley    AUSTRALIA
2    Katherine Calder    NEW ZEALAND
3    d’Arcy Baxter    AUSTRALIA
4    Aimee Watson    AUSTRALIA

Open Men 1.1km Freestyle Sprint – A-Final

1    Valerio Leccardi    SWITZERLAND
2    Thomas Diezig    SWITZERLAND
3    Gaudenz Flury    SWITZERLAND
4    Mark van der Ploeg    AUSTRALIA

Australian 15/30km Freestyle Championship, Sunday August 9

Open Women 15km Freestyle

1    40:53.6    Katherine Calder    NEW ZEALAND
2    43:05.5    Esther Bottomley    AUSTRALIA
3    43:48.0    Andrea Fancy    NEW ZEALAND
4    43:52.1    Aimee Watson    AUSTRALIA
5    44:24.1    Clare-Louise Brumley    AUSTRALIA

Open Men 30km Freestyle

1    1:12:23.0    Thomas Diezig    SWITZERLAND
2    1:12:23.6    Ben Sim    AUSTRALIA
3    1:13:48.7    Valerio Leccardi    SWITZERLAND
4    1:15:10.4    Tomio Kanamaru    JAPAN
5    1:15:12.6    Callum Watson    AUSTRALIA

Full results will be available at in the next few days.

30km Podium, First: Thomas Diezig - Switzerland, Second: Ben Sim - Australia, Third: Valerio Leccardi - Switzerland.
30km Podium, First: Thomas Diezig - Switzerland, Second: Ben Sim - Australia, Third: Valerio Leccardi - Switzerland.


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