Final 2015 Australian Championships Results & Report

The final events of the 2015 Australian Championships for Cross Country Skiing were held this weekend August 15-16 at Falls Creek in Victoria. Australian skiers claimed three out of four victories in exciting racing against international skiers from Sweden, Slovenia, Switzerland, Finland and Estonia. The competitions were organised by the Birkebeiner Nordic Ski Club on behalf of Ski and Snowboard Australia, and also counted as stages three and four of the 8-stage FIS Australia-New Zealand Cup.

Perfect weather and racing conditions greeted the competitors, a welcome change after the wet and windy weekend for the Australian Junior Championships two weeks earlier.

Internationals Maria Graefnings from Sweden and Kein Einaste from Estonia posted the fastest qualification times for Saturday’s Classic Sprint qualification, however didn’t get things all their way in the final rounds. In the women’s A-Final 2015 Australian Junior Champion Katerina Paul stormed up the first hill and broke away from Graefnings, Barbara Jezersek from Slovenia and fellow Victorian Casey Wright. With Graefnings and Jezersek closing fast in the final straight Paul hung on to win her first Open Australian Championship by just centimetres in a photo-finish.

The men’s Classic Sprint saw a number of the top competitors double poling on skating skis all the way through, however local Falls Creek skier Phillip Bellingham opted for an alternative and ultimately winning strategy. Bellingham kept his arms and skate skis fresh by using classic skis and wax throughout the qualification and early final rounds, and only switched to double poling for the A-final against Einaste, NSWIS skier Callum Watson and Valerio Leccardi from Switzerland. Coming from behind with fast skis on the downhill sections Bellingham seized the lead from Einaste with 200m to go and held on in the straight by about a ski length. Watson took third place.

In Sunday’s Freestyle events the racing was all against the clock with skiers starting at 30 second intervals. Jezersek held a 10 second lead over Graefnings after the first 5km lap, then extended it on the second lap to win the 10km Freestyle by 35 seconds. Wright claimed her second Australian title of the season with third place overall, ahead of Lauren Fritz from the USA and rising junior star Lilly Boland from NSW.

Some unexpected bunch skiing in the men’s 15km Freestyle made for a dramatic interval start race. Bellingham caught Watson from 30 seconds behind and Eric Storvall from Finland from one minute behind after 5km, while behind Leccardi was sitting level with Watson on time. Working together Watson and Bellingham extended the lead over the Swiss skier, dropping Storvall and picking up into their train fellow World Cup team skier Paul Kovacs. On the final lap Bellingham’s early effort took its toll and Leccardi started to close on the two leaders. Watson then went for it, dropping Bellingham and slowly pulling back seconds on Leccardi. Fighting hard to the finish Bellingham held on to win by just 13 seconds over Watson, with Leccardi third 19 seconds behind. Kovacs took fourth place half a second head of Australian U23 Team member Nick Montgomery.

More detailed results including age classes and times for the quarter-finals are posted on the Race Results website:

In the FIS Australia – New Zealand Continental Cup standings Barbara Jezersek has a commanding lead on the women’s side, while Phil Bellingham’s clean sweep of the weekend has jumped him into the a small lead ahead of Callum Watson. The next race in the series is the 42km Kangaroo Hoppet Worlloppet race at Falls Creek on August 22, which annually features over 1000 skiers from over 20 nations.

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