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 www.hoppet.com.au/xc in the next few days.