The Decade’s Top 10

2010 has bought to a close a decade of greatness in Australian cross country skiing. The following list counts down the top ten moments and achievements from 2000-2009. The list was originally published in “THIS WEEK in Mount Beauty and Falls Creek” after being complied by the papers cross country skiing correspondent. After permission was received by the editors of the paper this list can now be published on AusXC for wider viewer ship. If you would like to comment on any of the top 10 in the list, suggest a moment left out or different arrangement I encourage you to post a comment using the link at the bottom of the page.   

 10. Junior Sim wins Hoppet

Most people thought the 2005 Kangaroo Hoppet was a one horse race with visiting Estonian and world class marathon skier Raul Olle easily favorite to win. If an Australian was to beat Olle the best bet would be to try and stick in his slip stream and then try and win the sprint finish. This is not how the race went; instead, 20 year old Ben Sim attacked Olle at the 15km mark of the 42km race. After the initial attack Sim fought to consolidate his lead which he successfully defended to the finish winning by nearly one and a half minutes. The victory speech Sim gave when receiving his award confirmed that he was not just a fantastic skier but a fantastic person as well. 

9. Eleven at Liberec

The depth of the Australian Team reached an historic high at the 2009 Liberec World Championships. Australia qualified eleven athletes which is the most ever to be sent by an Australian team to such an event. They included Andrew Mock, Andrew Wynd, Nick Grimmer, Ben Sim, Callum Watson, Aimee Watson, Mark van der Ploeg, Paul Murray, Esther Bottomley, Mark Raymond and Chris Darlington. The results were solid with Sim finishing in 42nd in the Pursuit and Mock 50th in the 50km skate however it was the depth within the Australian team that made these championships a highlight of the decade.

8. Esther’s Uni Champs and beyond

Esther Bottomley took on the World in the January and February of 2005. Within a period of four weeks she gained a top 20 and the World University Championships, won a Swiss Cup and gain Australia’s best ever FIS points. The first week of racing saw Esther achieve one of Australia’s best ever results at a winter universiade by finishing in 17 out of a field of 76 starters. A week later Esther was racing again in the Pontresina International Night Sprints in which she beat many of the World’s top sprinters including Evi Sachenbacher, Sereina Mischol, Stephanie Boehler and Sara Renner. Esther’s result saw her gain 27 FIS points which at the time where the best of any Australian ever. To top all this off Esther raced a few days later in Feutersoy and won her first Swiss Cup.

 7. BD’s Koenig Ludwig Lauf

On Saturday January 31, 2003, Ben Derrick finished 2nd in the 50km Freestyle Koenig Ludwig Lauf in Oberammergau in Germany behind Patrick Roelli from Switzerland. This World Loppet event is the German equivalent of the Kangaroo Hoppet and can attract up to ten thousand participants. Although not associated with FIS points or part of a championship event the Koenig is one of the highest profiled and most hotly contested cross country ski events in the world. Ben broke away early from the main pack with Roelli, winner of the 2003 Transjurassienne, and Andreas Stizl from Germany. The three worked together for most of the race and consolidated their lead. BD was dropped on the big hill past Lindehof (one of King Ludwig’s castles), but worked hard to regain contact. Fighting cramps in the last 10km BD entered the stadium on the back of Roelli’s heels, and fought off Stitzl’s finish sprint to take 2nd place.

6. Top 20 at World U23’s

In 2008, for the first time ever an Australian cross country skier finish with a top 20 place at an open, junior or U23 World Championship. Ben Sim stormed home in the World U23 Championship 15km Classic event to take 19th place, 7.5% behind the winner Martin Jaks (CZE). He was ahead of all the Swiss, all the Italians, all the North Americans, was just piped by three seconds by the first German, and quite satisfyingly knocked off a couple of Norwegians and a couple of Swedes as well. A few days later, Ben Sim achieved another top 30 performance finishing 25th in the 30km Freestyle. Sim was not the only high achieving Aussie at the 2008 U23 World Championships; Aimee Watson achieved a top 30 results in the 15km freestyle finishing in 24th place, the highest ever placing by an Australian female skier. Aimee continued her run of top 30s at U23 World Championships events finishing in 28th in 2009 and 29th in 2010 however it was her 2008 results combined with Ben’s top 20 that secured the 2008 event as a top ten moment of the decade.

5. World Juniors 2003

The 2003 World Junior Championships signaled a turning point in Australian Cross Country Skiing. For the first time it showed that Australians could match it with the best in the world. It began in the first event when Ben Sim finished 25th in the 30km mass start. Although an amazing result it does not give credit to his race as he spent most of the race inside the top 20 and was in ninth place near the half way mark. Four days later in the Sprint event another Australian Esther Bottomley matched Sims performance finishing 21st. These two results are still the best performances at a World Junior Championships. Along with Nick Grimmer and Daniel van der Ploeg (whose results were also amongst the best ever) the 2003 World Junior Championships teamed proved Australians could be as good as anyone in the world.

 4. BD’s 4 Hoppet wins

In 2000, Ben Derrick became the second Australian to win Australia’s most prestigious race the Kangaroo Hoppet. This alone would have barely rated a mention in this count down however Ben did not stop there going on to win the race on three more occasions. More then any other Australian athlete Ben dominated the domestic racing scene, he won 16 Australian Championships and medaled in another 18 giving him a total of 34 National Medals. Ben performed to a very high standard internationally but it was Ben’s Hoppet achievements combined with his domestic dominance that ranked fourth in the top ten moments and achievements of the last decade.

 3. Ben Sim, Top 30 in Norway WC

On November 21st 2009,  Ben Sim became the second Australian cross country skier ever to score World Cup points, and the first to do it in a distance event. Sim finished 30th in the opening World Cup 15km Freestyle in Beitostolen in Norway, just 1:07 behind the winner Ronny Hafsaas of Norway. Sim started with bib number 31 and on the time splits was sitting around 30th place the entire race. With a kilometer and a half to go there were six skiers all with a chance of taking places 29 and 30, and Sim seized the opportunity to take one World Cup point. The feeling was that he had just missed out, so when the results appeared on the screen in the stadium and on the TV in the athletes’ room the Australian Team reactions were such that spectators would be forgiven for thinking that Simbo had won the race. Racing World Cup is hard, racing World Cup in Norway is even harder, racing the opening World Cup in Norway against a full field is as hard as it gets. Although this is just a single person achieving a single result it is a result of such high quality that it had to be in the top three moments of the last decade.

2. Paul Murray, a decade of dominance  

For the entire decade from 2000-2009 Paul Murray was consistently one of Australia’s best cross country skier. A top ten list could be compiled purely of his results. February 2005 saw the high point of Paul’s skiing career and the number two achievement of the decade. On the 13th of that February Paul Murray scored Australia’s first ever World Cup points for cross country skiing. Paul finished 29th, the highest ever, in the 1.2km sprint classic World Cup in Reit im Winkl, Germany. Nine days later Paul was competing at the World Championships also in Germany where he achieved Australia’s best ever World Championship result finishing 31st.  To this day Paul remains Australia’s highest finishing cross country skier in both World Cup and World Championship. To show it was not just luck Paul backed up two years later at the Sapporo World Championships finishing 38th. His results over those ten days in 2005 were the second greatest cross country skiing moment of the last decade and arguable one of the greatest moments of all time.

1.      A Female Olympics

The emergence and dominance of female athlete’s in Australian cross country skiing is the number one achievement of the last decade with the Torino Olympics being the high point. It had been 26 years since a female athlete represented Australia at the Olympic games and in 2006 when Esther Bottomley and Clare-Lious Brumley qualified they became just the second and third to do so. Clare achieved the best ever result by a female athlete at an Olympics finishing 42nd out of the field of 67 and 9.9% behind the winner. Since the “Glass Ceiling” was broken at the Torino Games Australian Cross Country Skiing has been inundated with female skiers. Older female skiers have taken up the sport and junior female athletes are joining in droves illustrating the impact Esther and Clare have had. No other event in the decade has led to the same sort of inspiration and thus qualifying two female athletes to the Torino Olympics Games is the number one achievement and moment of the decade 2000-2009.

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