Bellingham/Kovacs and Yeaton/Wright Impress in Team Sprint

Falun 2015 Race Report # 4 – Team Sprint

The Falun 2015 Team Sprint was one of the main events the Australian Team was targeting at these championships. In the women’s Team Sprint the combination of Jessica Yeaton and Casey Wright finished 18th after a tough race against Great Britain. In the men’s event Phillip Bellingham and Paul Kovacs finished 23rd after a couple of blazes of glory mid-race. But first to the circumstances of the team selection.


Phil&PK_TeamSprint_Falun2015 Continue reading

Falun 2015 Skiathlon Report

Falun 2015 Race Report # 3 – Skiathlons

Apologies for the delays on the race reports, it’s been action aplenty here in Falun.

The Skiathlons were held last Saturday February 21. Originally there were six Australians entered, however in the end only three of them competed. In the 15km Skiathlon Aimee Watson was the highest placed finisher in 53rd, Xanthea Dewez was 54th, and unfortunately Anna Trnka was overlapped in the last 500m and had to pull out, ending up ranked 55th out of the 56 starters. Casey Wright withdrew on the morning of the race to concentrate on the Team Sprint the following day, having been selected to take the place of Esther Bottomley who unfortunately came down with a stomach bug a few days earlier. On the men’s side Callum Watson and Paul Kovacs were not 100% healthy and withdrew from the 30km Skiathlon to focus on later races in the championships (more about that in the next report).

The Skiathlon fields were relatively small compared to previous championships, to a large extent due to the new qualification standards for all the distance events (see race report #1). In the 15km the Australian women avoided a small pile up early on, then the pack soon broke up thanks to a cracking pace by the front handful of skiers. All made it through the change to skating skis without any incidents. Aimee started to close on a Chinese skier on the final lap but the finish line came too soon. Xanthea pushed hard all the way to make it safely through onto her final lap. Anna had a front row seat of the battle for the gold medal after she was pulled from the race before the leaders caught her on the final hill of the sprint loop. The winner was Therese Johaug from Norway; Astrid Jacobsson from Norway outsprinted the home favourite Charlotte Kalla for the silver.

In the men’s 30km the winner was Russian Maxim Vylegzhanin ahead of Daro Cologna from Switzerland and Canadian Alex Harvey; just 1.6 seconds separated the top three. Special mention to Andrew Musgrave from Great Britain in 12th place.

Team Sprint and team health report coming up next!

Huge Snowfall and an Official Written Warning (Campra race report)

Half an Adventure

The main part of this post is about my somewhat unusual three days of racing in the Italian part of Switzerland, which included a huge dump of snow, one of the toughest races of my life, getting an official warning from the international ski federation (FIS) and relying on the help of those I have met along the way. On to that first:

Skate Sprint

The races were held in a place called Campra, in the Italian-speaking Ticino province of Switzerland. The course is located next to a very long building with accommodation, a sport hall, an outdoor ice rink, ski shop, café and many other things, which appears to have been cobbled together over time to create a rabbit-warren of staircases and the feeling of a never-ending building. Apart from this complex of buildings, there is little else in the valley apart from a few huts, most of which…

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World Championships the half way point.

Paul Kovacs. Elite Cross-Country Skier

Again I find myself writing this in my room watching snow fall steadily outside. Calmly covering everything in a layer of white. Erasing everything that was underneath from sight and starting afresh. We are at the halfway point for World Championships and under the serenity of that layer of snow lies a tumultuous last week. The team and myself have certainly had its ups and downs.

Our awesome accommodation with great food and super friendly staff! Our awesome accommodation with great food and super friendly staff!

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Full Australian Contingent in Classic Sprint

Falun 2015 Race Report # 2 – Classic Sprint

The Classic Sprint at the Falun 2015 World Championship was held on Thursday February 19, with Australia fielding a full contingent of four men and four women. Esther Bottomley and Jessica Yeaton finished just a second apart in 50th and 51st place, with Anna Trnka 57th and Xanthea Dewez 62nd from the field of 94 starters. Phillip Bellingham was the highest placed man in 64th place, with Paul Kovacs, Jackson Bursill and Mark Pollock 82nd, 86th and 99th respectively out of 127 starters.

Competing in her 6th World Championship sprint, Esther was in 43rd place at the top of the course but lost valuable seconds after nearly falling on a fast corner. She just missed a V-board as she veered off the course and did well to stay on her feet. Unfortunately Xanthea wasn’t so lucky, falling on the same corner just after clocking 52nd position in the mid-race time split. She was soon back on her feet but lost a lot of momentum and places. Jessica skied solidly in her World Championship debut, and Anna backed up well after the 5km qualication race the previous day. The women’s A-final was won by Marit Bjorgen from Norway ahead of crowd favourite Stina Nilsson from Sweden.

Phillip’s 64th place was an improvement on his 73rd place in the World Championship Classic Sprint in 2013. He skied well up the two big hills though overall was disappointed not to be further up the result list. PK, Jackson and Mark struggled more with grip and were unable to stay in the tracks on the steeper parts of the hills. On the whole classic sprinting is probably the weakest discipline for the current men on the team. The men’s A-final was won by Petter Northug from Norway ahead of a fast finishing Alex Harvey from Canada.

The next races are the Skiathlon events on Saturday. Casey, Anna and Xanthea will join Aimee Watson in the 15km Skiathlon, while Callum Watson and Paul Kovacs will race the 30km Skiathlon. Esther and Jessica are resting up for the Team Sprint on Sunday, as is Phil who will team up with Callum.

Full results are available on the FIS site and also on the Falun 2015 site.

Casey Wright & Anna Trnka Top 4 in 5km Qualification

Falun 2015 Race Report # 1 – Qualification Races

On Wednesday February 18 the 5/10km qualification races were held at the 2015 World Championship in Falun. Casey Wright and Anna Trnka came out firing in the 4km Freestyle, taking out 3rd and 4th place in a tight race for the podium. Just 0.3 seconds separated the two 20-year-old Australians, both whom now have the opportunity to race another distance race at the championship. In the men’s 10km Freestyle Jackson Bursill finished 22nd and Mark Pollock 43rd, unfortunately not quite fast enough to qualify through.

The A qualification standard for the World Championship distance races is 120 FIS points for women and 90 FIS points for men. All other athletes must first race the qualification races, from which the top 10 skiers in each event are then able to start further distance events at the championship.

The last starter in the field of 45 athletes, Anna started well and was in 2nd place at the first time split near the top of the course, with Casey about five seconds back in 4th place. At the 2.8km mark Anna had dropped back to 3rd, six seconds behind 2nd and one second ahead of Casey. Casey cross the finish line in 3rd place, and held onto the podium place by a couple of boot lengths when Anna finished a minute later. The race was won by Chi from China.

In the 10km Jackson was in the hunt for a top 10 place early on, just six seconds out of 9th place at the first split. At the 5km mark he was in 15th, 16 seconds from 10th, but from there the time gaps grew and he dropped to 22nd on the second lap. Mark also had a faster start, in 28th place at the top of the course on the first lap before gradually dropping places to end up 43rd out of the field of 69 as the race progressed. Neither of the boys felt like they were able to ski with the form that they had shown earlier in the season. The 10km was won by Belomazhev from Bulgaria.

Full results are available on the FIS site and also on the Falun 2015 site. This Fasterskier article provides some more information on the qualification race and a good shot of Casey on the podium.

We’re Not In Kansas Anymore (Welcome to the World Cup)

Jessica Yeaton

Once again, the past couple weeks have been an absolute whirlwind of training, travel, and racing. The first part of my Swedish adventure has provided me with only a handful of decent photos unfortunately, but with countless new experiences and lessons. Like this disappointing one- every morning I woke up and went to the kitchen to see this box of oats that clearly said “Marvin Gaye” on it. When I get that feelin’… nope…


The Uni Games crew met up with the rest of the ausxc contingency in Gronklitt, where we had a 10 day training camp. The skiing was absolutely spectacular- plenty of snow and about 80k of groomed trails to cruise.




Last Thursday, about half of us headed to compete at the World Cup in Ostersund. On the way we stopped to get the ever famous gigantic chocolate balls; we figured they would keep us fueled throughout the…

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Falun 2015 World Championship Team

On February 18 the 2015 World Championship begins in Falun, Sweden. The Australian Team has been confirmed as six women and five men, equalling the largest ever number of Australian cross country skiers at this level of competition. At the age of 32 Esther Bottomley is the oldest member of the team, competing at her 6th World Championship. Five athletes are making their World Championship debut, including the youngest 19-year-old Xanthea Dewez who competed at the World Junior Championship two weeks ago.


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The first races are the women’s 5km and 10km qualification races. Athletes without one race under 120 FIS points (women) or 90 FIS points (men) need to finish in the top 10 in order to qualify for all championship distance races. Australia has two women (Anna Trnka and Casey Wright) and two men (Jackson Bursill and Mark Pollock) vying to make it through from a field of forty-five women and sixty-nine men. Continue reading

Ostersund World Cup

Paul Kovacs. Elite Cross-Country Skier

There is light rain falling as I look out the window of my room. Back home we call mizzle it’s not mist and it’s not drizzle. In some ways it’s hardly noticeable but you get wet from it fairly quickly. It’s trying to snow but not quite. It’s a standard grey day here in Falun Sweden. The entire World Championship team is now together and living in our allotted athlete accommodation for the Championships. This year our team is huge, 11 athletes and 8 support staff. This is the largest overall group we have ever sent to a Championship event! It’s pretty exciting to be part of such a huge group. There is a lot of excitement and a few nerves floating about the team. We have four athletes competing in the 10km qualifying race on Wednesday. I’m lucky enough to be prequalified and able to skip that race. I think…

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Australia returned to the World Cup circuit yesterday with six Australians lining up to start the classic sprint in Ostersund, Sweden. Jessica Yeaton and Xanthea Dewez made their World Cup debut joining Esther Bottomley, Phil Bellingham, Jackson Bursill and Paul Kovacs.

Looking from the grand stand towards the start line of the World Cup Sprint in Ostersund, Sweden

The race was spectacular with short ups, technical downs and a huge crowd. In the words of Xanthea Dewez: “The atmosphere before the start was pretty awesome! The stadium was also very cool.. When the first people or the Swedish were starting the crowd was so loud! And they went up those hills so quickly, it was amazing to watch. I have never seen anyone herringbone so fast up a hill!”  The racing was tight with many athletes falling on the fast corner or tripping as fought for position on the final climb. Marit Bjoergen from Norway won her 90th World Cup and Finn Haagen Krogh also from Norway won the male event.

The highest finishing Australians were Esther Bottomley who finished in 58th out of 64, 12% behind the winner and Phil Bellingham who finished in 79th out of 84, 10% behind the winner. For almost all the Australians the snow texture did not suit their racing style. Really sugary snow meant it was hard to put a lot of power down or stay in the tracks in on the ups. Nonetheless all the Australians will be happy to have had the experience and the hit out before World Championships starts on Wednesday.  Continue reading