Australian XC Ski Team Report

FasterSkierDecember 27, 2009

Australia Team Report

Australian Cross Country Ski Team

News and information from the northern hemisphere over the Australian summer.

Recent Events

World Cup, Rogla, Slovenia, December 19-20

Rogla Sprint Events

Esther Bottomley notched up her best result of the season in the Classic Sprint in Rogla last Saturday. Bottomley was 44th out of the field of 61, knocking off several regular World Cup sprint finalists in the process. The course was long, over four minutes for the fastest qualifier Justyna Kowalczyk from Poland, and conditions were tough with new snow falling throughout the race and temperatures down to -14 degrees. Bottomley paced the first half of the race well then gave it 100% up the last hill and into the long finish straight, getting tunnel vision down the finish straight as every tenth of a second counted for places. The Australians didn’t fare so well in the men’s sprint, Paul Murray was 66th and Mark van der Ploeg 68th out of 69 starters. Both were in the hurt box two thirds of the way around the course and lost time towards the end of the race.

Rogla Distance Events

Ben Sim kept his run of good World Cups going with a hard fought 43rd place in the Rogla 30km Classic on Sunday. Sim was in the lead pack for the first three laps before settling into a chasing pack and fighting hard mentally and physically to work his way up to 43rd in the second half of the race. Callum Watson also put in a gutsy effort for nearly 25km before he was overlapped by the lead pack on the short 2.5km loop, and was ranked 51st out of the 66 starters. Watson received a lot of crowd attention as he battled for most of the race alongside the sole Slovenian athlete. A large number of skiers didn’t finish the race, some being overlapped and others just withdrawing. Only one of the five skiers from Finland managed to finish, and that was Kuusamo World Cup winner Matti Heikkinen in 42nd place, just seven seconds ahead of Sim. In the women’s 15km Aimee Watson didn’t have such a great race, losing contact with the main pack early on and ending up 61st from 66 starters.

Full results are available via the Australian Cross Country Skiing Website

Coming Events

Swiss Cup, Campra, Switzerland, December 29-30

The next stop after Christmas for the Australian Team is the Swiss Cup in Campra just before the New Year. The events on offer are Classic Sprints and Classic Distance races. This competition will be the first FIS event of the season for Australian juniors Phillip Bellingham, Robert Jones and Paul Kovacs, and also for Australian Continental Cup Team member Ewan Watson who arrived to Switzerland last week.

Reports and results from the weekend will be posted on the Australian Cross Country Skiing Website.

Top Three Ready For Vancouver

With the Vancouver benchmark World Cup events now concluded the best results of each athlete in the Shadow Olympic Team are as follows:

30.00% – Ben Sim (Beitostolen 15km Freestyle, November 2009)
43.30% – Paul Murray (Stockholm Sprint Classic, March 2009)
72.13% – Esther Bottomley (Rogla Sprint Classic, December 2009)
75.00% – Callum Watson (Rogla 30km Classic, December 2009)
88.52% – Aimee Watson (Lahti 10km Freestyle, March 2009)
95.83% – Nick Grimmer (Trondheim Sprint Classic, March 2009)
96.70% – Mark van der Ploeg (Kuusamo Sprint Classic, November 2009)

Based on this ranking Sim, Murray and Bottomley would be selected to the Australian Olympic Team, as the current Australian quota for cross country skiing set by FIS and the IOC is three athletes. The official Australian Team will not be named until the quota list is finalized between January 18 and January 24. The quota will not drop below three athletes and there is a small (very small) chance that it could go up to four athletes.

This World Cup season has been Sim’s best ever. The 24-year-old skier from Cooma came out with a bang scoring World Cup points in the opener in Beitostolen, and has been right up there in the mix in every race since. Bottomley’s form has steadily improved with each race and her performance on the long sprint course in Rogla shows good potential for the similar course at the Whistler Olympic Park in the Callaghan Valley. Murray is only one of the three who hasn’t hit his straps this winter, and owes his ticket to Vancouver to his 42nd place in Stockholm last March. However Murray has shown in the past he can pull out a big race when it counts at the highest level. He was 31st in the 2005 World Championship Classic Sprint and 38th in the same event at the 2007 World Championship. Murray has seven weeks now to turn his form around before Vancouver and if he does he will be part of arguably the strongest Australian cross country ski team to compete at the Winter Olympics. All three have the potential to make it into the top 30 (out of likely fields of 80-100 athletes) and with the unpredictable snow conditions at Callaghan anything is possible if the waxing team is on top of their game.

Congratulations to all athletes in the Shadow Team on their efforts this season and last. All have made great commitments and sacrifices to get where they have, and in the end with the quota restrictions there was always going to be some who would be disappointed not to make it to Vancouver. Everyone on the team should be proud of their PB’s and achievements along the way.

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