Austrian Championships, Bad Ischl

The Australian Team had good representation at the Austrian Championships in Bad Ischl with 11 athletes competing over the three days of racing. Esther Bottomley started the racing with a bang, qualifying first in the women’s freestyle sprint event with a 4 second gap to the second qualifier. In the semi-final Bottomley tried unsuccessfully to break away in front, and has to sprint hard at the finish to secure a spot in the A-final. Deciding to sit behind in the A-final, Bottomley finished off fast narrowly missing 1st, but finishing in 2nd place.

In the men’s sprint, Callum Watson, Phil Bellingham and Mark Van der Ploeg skied well in the qualifying to secure spots in the quarter-finals. Bellingham secured personal best FIS points of 112. Callum also tried to break away in front, but to no avail. Phil Bellingham, according to coach Finn Marsland “spent his bikkies in the middle of the race and had nothing left in the finish straight.” Mark Van der Ploeg skied well and ended up in 16th position, with Watson 17th and Bellingham 25th. Paul Kovacs was next of the Australian men in 32nd, with junior Alasdair Tutt skiing strongly in to 36th, and Alex Gibson in 39th.

For the women’s 5km classic event, Bottomley was joined by Aimee Watson. Both skied well, with Bottomley finishing in 9th and Watson in 12th position. In the men’s 10km race, Callum Watson finished in 15th place with a solid result of 85 FIS points, 49 seconds off winner Kris Freeman. Phil Belligham, Mark VDP and Paul Kovacs finished in 30th, 32nd and 33rd positions respectively. As the youngest athlete in the 10km, Hamish Roberts skied well to finish in 37th, with Alasdair Tutt in 38th and Alex Gibson in 39th. Nick Montgomery unfortunately broke a pole early on in the race and finished in 40th position, while Mark Pollock hadn’t quite recovered enough from illness and had a race to forget.

Sunday saw both men’s and women’s pursuit races, with Esther Bottomley finishing 5th overall and Aimee Watson not too far behind in 9th. Callum Watson opted to sit the race out, feeling run down and wanting to prepare for the next World Cup races. Mark VDP was the first of the Australian men, finishing strongly to place 23rd. Phil Bellingham finished in 24th, after trying to hold on to a strong Austrian skier and blowing up part way through the race. Nick Montgomery was the strongest of the junior boys in 26th, followed closely by a “flat” Paul Kovacs in 27th. Alex Gibson and Hamish Roberts also raced the pursuit, finishing 30th and 31st respectively.

Callum Watson, Mark Van der Ploeg and Esther Bottomley will race the World Cup City Sprint in Moscow, Russia today, and other members of the team head to Campra, Switzerland for a series of races there.

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