The Ashes – Boxing Day Update

It was an awesome experience to ski along side the best skiers in the world. To watch their technique and to see how they train was beneficial to apply to my own training. – Ash Kildea

I learned from the 5km that I need to give everything I have right from the start, so that I have nothing left to give when I finish. – Ash Spittle

Aislinn Kildea and Ashleigh Spittle are two of Australia’s most promising junior cross country skiing athletes. This summer they have been travelling with Nick Grimmer, Ewan Watson and Lescinska Grimmer. The first part of the trip focused on training and gaining experience. Christmas marks the end of the first part of their trip. Below is an interview with these girls about the first part of their trip.

The first week of the trip was spent in the northern Goms valley. How did you adjust from the dry land training to being on snow?

AK: For me, the first week I was desperately trying to pick up a bit of fitness as I have just finished yr12 so time and energy to train was quite minimal for the 2 months before I left. I also had the worst jetlag I’ve ever experienced that lasted for 8 days before I had a full night sleep. So I spent this first week doing long, slow skis twice a day.

AS: I found that it was great to finally get on snow and not be overheating like I had been at home! Of course the first few sessions I was a bit wobbly on my skis but I settled in quickly and it didn’t take long to be feeling good again.
Both of you raced the first weekend in Europe, what was it like racing so early? How did the races go? Were there any lessons you took from these races that will help you later in the season?

AK: I didn’t mind racing the first weekend. It was nice to get the first one out of the way. So I could get rid of some of the nerves and to see where I was at in comparison to the rest of the field. I didn’t go so great in the race especially as it was a skate sprint and that’s really not my favourite race but I felt like I skied it technically well and that’s all I was after for the first race.

AS: It was a bit of a shock to be racing after less than a week of skiing, but like Ash, I was glad to have a couple of races under my belt early on. If anything I think the races were beneficial to just give me a starting point to work off for the rest of the season, and I learnt that racing over here is quite different to racing at home as the field is a whole lot stronger! After those races, I can see that mentally I will need to approach races over here differently, which is definitely good to know!

After Goms we travelled to Davos where we spent the next three weeks. What have been your impressions of Davos, have you liked the tracks here, would you ever consider returning?

AK: From the places I’ve been to, Davos is my favourite place to ski in Europe. This is my second time skiing here and I would definitely return again.

AS: I have really enjoyed training in Davos, there is a nice atmosphere to the town and the ski tracks are very nice. I especially enjoyed being able to ski on the course where the World Cup was held. I found it motivational to think that the top athletes had been racing where I was training. I would definitely return to Davos and also recommend it to others!

The three weeks in Davos you both had the opportunity to work with the Australian Team coach Finn Marsland in what can be seen as a three week long team camp. Was it good having Finn here and how has working with him improved your skiing?

AK: Having Finn around was great. It allowed us to get technique pointers throughout the sessions and also filming us to do video analysis for technique.

AS: As well as what Ash said, I feel it has been helpful to have someone to check in with regularly about training so that we can stay on track. Also,having the rest of the team around to train with has been great as I find it’s always easier to train well when other people are out training with you, doing the same thing.

The first ten days you spent in Davos coincided the central European World Cups including the Davos World Cup. This meant for those ten days many of the best skiers in the world were training in Davos. I know for me is was great training alongside these athletes, there is no better feeling the classicing past Northug as he is skating. How did you both find training along side these athletes?

AK: It was an awesome experience to ski along side the best skiers in the world. To watch their technique and to see how they train was beneficial to apply to my own training.

AS: I also thought it was an amazing experience. I found it extremely motivational to try skiing behind them in our sessions, and I was always trying my hardest to ski well when they were around! It was also cool to see that they were doing to same type of sessions as us, it made me feel like I was doing what I should be doing.

Did you learn anything for watching the Davos World Cups live?

AK: It was great to see just how close to each other the athletes ski in the skate sprint.

AS: As well as being able to see and hear just how hard they were working (often hard to grasp from the television), I think the best thing about it was that we had been skiing the course they were racing on in the week before the races. Being able to think just how hard the course was, and then how well they were skiing it was inspirational. It also showed me I have a long way to go!

Last weekend you had your second lot of races in Austria. These were OPA Cup races, which is the most competitive junior racing series in the World. What was it like racing at this level?

AK: It was a bit nerve racking having to race with people as good as they were.

AS: It was a bit scary, but when we were able to beat some of the European juniors who were racing, that was a good feeling!

How did the races go? Did you learn anything from the weekend that will help you later in the season?

AK: The races went pretty well. I felt as though I did better in the 5km skate then I was expecting. I had the same feeling after the skate sprint as I had the week before; that being, not quite satisfied with the result but felt as though I skied it well.

AS: I was a little disappointed with my results in the first few days, however I don’t think I could have skied better in the sprint. I learned from the 5km that I need to give everything I have right from the start, so that I have nothing left to give when I finish. I skied this race a little too conservatively and felt I could have pushed harder. I enjoyed the 10km classic. It was good to get some more experience racing 10kms, as I haven’t done many.

Now that the training part of the trip is over we head into the racing block, there are a total of 9 races over the next three weeks. What are your goals in these races?

AK: I will be hoping to qualify for the World Junior Championships held in Estonia late January

AS: I want to improve on the results I have achieved so far, and I also hope to qualify for the World Junior Championships.

Skiing aside, what has been some of the other enjoyable moments experienced?

AK: Having Christmas dinner with the team and a few other international ring ins, then sledding with Bobo the Davos ski school penguin which was also quite enjoyable!

AS: I’d have to agree with Ash on that one, although it has also been enjoyable wandering around then town, and hanging out with the rest of the team. It has been a good group of people to live with here in Davos!

The Ashes are now in Campra and will be racing on Tuesday and Wednesday in Swiss Cup races before traveling to Adelboden to race a cashed up city sprint.

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