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Winter News 1998
August 24
July 27
July 7
June 28
June 21
June 7

August 24

Alternative course for 1998 Kangaroo Hoppet

Due to snow conditions at Falls Creek, the 1998 Kangaroo Hoppet will be held on roughly the same course as in 1993. The start is in the Link Lift area between the Summit and the Eagle Chair, and heads out onto Frying Pan Spur before cruising past Mt McKay and Pretty Valley. There will be three laps of the 14km loop for Hoppet competitors, one lap for Australian Birkebeiner competitors, and a smaller 5km loop for the Joey Hoppet. More information when you pick up your race numbers.

Australian Championships, Perisher Valley, August 17 - 22

A brief run down of the action from Perisher Valley. Full Results!

Women's 15km freestyle: Snow dumped down throughout the race and visibility was extremely poor. Camille Melvey and Alina McMaster took off right from the start, leaving behind a pack of Katie Calder, Amy Hunt, Belinda Phillips and Natasha Coleman. After a few kilometers Camille broke away from Alina, and slowly pulled away for the rest of the race to win by 38 seconds. Katie and Natasha battled to the top of the hill on the second lap (2 by 7.5km laps), then Natasha's faster skis saw her take third place comfortably. Belinda Phillips experienced breathing difficulties likely due to a cold from the previous week and could only manage seventh place.

Men's 30km freestyle: Same conditions as for the women. Reigning champion Anthony Evans pushed the pace early and spread out the pack, but then Ben Derrick bridged the gap and established a lead of his own with the assistance of a couple of falls in the soft snow beside the track. From then on Ben steadily extended his lead while the battle for second place raged on behind. Paul Murray, Ant, and Finn Marsland all shared the lead in the chasing pack until Paul took a dive at about the 20km mark and lost considerable time. Ant and Finn fought it out until the last 2km, when the Rodent pulled away and went on to take second place nearly two and a half minutes behind Derrick.

This was Ben Derrick's first ever National Championship victory after numerous 2nd places in the 30km event.

"I've been putting in the training for years with not much to show for it," said Ben after the race. "It'll be a while before I come down from this high."

Women's 5km classic: Camille Melvey had little trouble in adding yet another national title to her growing tally. Natasha Coleman continued her good form with second place, 33 seconds behind. Jessica Hart held onto third place after the first few kilometres but faded badly, allowing Katie Calder to secure her first podium finish at national senior level.

Men's 10km classic: Paul Murray almost produced the upset of the season with a fast finishing second place in this classic event. Starting with Ben Derrick in dual start format, Paul and Ben were over 30 seconds behind race leader Finn Marsland after 5km. But then half way around the second lap Paul broke away from Ben and powered up the last couple of hills, and reduced the winning margin to only 15 seconds. At 21 years old, Paul is the youngest male skier to be so close to victory in a senior Australian Championship since Anthony Evans, Paul Gray and Tom Landon-Smith came through in the late eighties. There's hope for Australian skiing yet!

Women's 10km freestyle: For the second year in a row Camille Melvey made a clean sweep of the National Championships. Starting 30 seconds behind Alina McMaster and one minute behind Natasha Coleman, Camille swept through the field like a train, taking on passengers who hung on to the finish. Alina's second place showed that she is still a force to be reckoned with even while holding down a full time job. Natasha's third podium finish for the week establishes her as the most consistent performer this season after Camille and bodes well for the future. Only 34 seconds from 4th place to 8th place is also a good sign.

Men's 15km freestyle: The king is dead - hold on here comes the king! Anthony Evans alias the Rodent blew the field away in the last 5km to show why he is Australia's greatest ever cross country skier. He never gives in. The three time Olympian was down 5 or 10 seconds to Finn Marsland mid way through the second 5km lap, then switched on the turbo and won by nearly 30 seconds at the finish. After the race, Ant said "It was my last lap and last shot at another title and I gave it all", but it will probably be some years yet until the Rodent's final title count will be made.

July 27
The snow looked good again - then the rain came again. Is this the July 7 report all over again? Snow has been predicted for later this week, fingers crossed for the Cabramurra Tour on Saturday.

The Sunsmart Victorian Interclub Competition opened up for 1998 with the Victorian Interclub Relays at Falls Creek. Now after two rounds, Birkebeiner has a handy lead of 4 points over Wangaratta. The third round of the competition will be at Lake Mountain on August 9. It will be interesting to see whether Lake Mountain Ski Club can manage to pull off a victory on home snow.

For those thinking about putting in their Ski Team entries, early season form is interesting so far. At Perisher Valley, Anthony Evans has left no doubt he can produce the goods, however there are rumours spreading that he may not start in the mid-week national races due to work committments. If this is true and not just a cunning ploy by the Rodent, then two national titles will be up for grabs for the likes of Ben Derrick, Michal Trnka, Matt Murtagh and Finn Marsland (waho, that's me). The Rodent has of course won all senior champioships bar one since about 1991. For the women, Camille Melvey has also shown she is worthy of the highest point ranking of the competition. Other strong early season contenders Alina McMaster and Robyn Rodd seem to far outstrip their meagre rankings of 40 and 70 points, but before you hurredly paste them into your team, try to find some inside knowledge about whether they will actually compete in the national championships. Notable high ranking absence from races so far this season include Lynn Maree Cranage and Myfanwy Cross, both likely to be Sydney based throughout the season, and two-time winter olympian Paul Gray. The Phantom (Dave Greber) has been sighted on snow, don't bother wasting your 20 points.

Taking a look at some up and coming junior skiers, Mick Evans and David College went one each in the NSW and ACT junior championships last weekend, as did Katie Calder and Christie Dowling. Other juniors will get a chance to show their stuff next weekend in the Victorian Junior Championships.

July 7

The snow was looking good for a while - then the rain came. That's the report from both NSW and Victoria after last weekend. Unfortunately some junior races had to be cancelled, but the Birkebeiner Knockout Sprint and the Clean out the Cobwebs went ahead very successfully before the rain set in. Results from both these events will be up on the results page as soon as someone sends in a copy of them - at this stage it is looking like next weekend. However there were some brief eyewitness reports.

Entries for Cooma Ski Club's Clean out the Cobwebs astounded race officials with over 80 skiers signing up at Perisher Valley on the day. In the 5km race Anthony Evans quickly established that he is still the man to beat on Australian snow, finishing well ahead of the rest of the field. Also showing great form was Alina McMaster. Finishing very close behind the first few guys, McMaster also managed to hold off a last minute sprint by boyfriend and ex national team member Tom Landon Smith. Commenting after the race, Landon Smith was distraught.

"This is the worst day of my life," claimed Landon Smith. " I don't know whether to quit skiing or to dump her. I lose out either way."

Landon Smith went on to claim he'd been poisoned though came up with no evidence for this accusation.

At Falls Creek Michal Trnka won the Birkebeiner Knockout Sprint men's final ahead of Wangaratta Ski Club's Leon Spiller, after co-finalists Ben Derrick and Paul Murray collided and took out each other soon after the start. In the women's final, Ester Bottomly won ahead of Kate Spiller. (Note: This was actually the junior final. Apologies to open winner Jenny Van Der Ploeg)

Interesting Times - June 28
The good news is that there's plenty of snow all over the place. There's even been XC grooming at most of the resorts. Races are due to start next weekend with junior races at Falls Creek and Perisher Valley, and also the Birkebeiner Knock Out sprints and Cooma Ski Club's Clean out the Cobwebs fresstyle event.

Not so good news is word on the grapevine that the Australian Institute of Winter Sports will not have a cross country program when it commences on July 1st. It seems that Australian international cross country results are not up to standard and that skiers may be considered for individual funding when they reach an international standard yet to be set. This is not official yet, and the full ramifications of this potential outcome may not be realised for some months to come. There is a Skiing Australia Cross Country Committee meeting this weekend which is considering (amongst other agenda items) possible courses of action.

In or outside the AIWS it essential for cross country skiing to take back the initiative with respect to an elite program and to set goals for our developing skiers to aim for.

This news makes it pretty definite that ASI cross country program director Christer Skog will not be taking up any position in Australia this winter. It seems that Christer has been involved with the USA ski team for at least a month now, and took part in a recent US ski team camp in Bend, Oregan. Apparently while in Bend he was interviewed by John Downing for Xcskiworld - it's not up on the site yet though.

Skier Profiles are finally appearing on the site, although for the moment lacking head or action shots of our skiers. More profiles will appear over the next few weeks and hopefully some pics as well.


Buckets of snow - any day now! - June 21
Just a brief news report.

There's some interesting reading on John Downings XC Skiworld news update from June 10. Scroll down to read about news from the FIS Congress in Prague. Hopefully more news from the FIS Congress coming soon.

Still no more concrete news on the Australian Institute of Winter Sport. There is a rumour that multiple Olympic Gold Medalist and all-round skating legend Johan Olav Koss will be on the new board.

A couple of recent additions to the web site. The Ski Team dream competition is back again and provokes much speculation about the upcoming race season. The 1998 Australian race calendar has also finally been put up - thanks to National Race Secretary Rae Moore for emailing the spreadsheet and saving lots of typing.

Browsing through the 1998 calendar, several details jumped out. The Australian Sprint championships have been scheduled for the weekend preceding the Nationals week. As sprint competitions are taking off overseas and in World Cup competition, this seems like a good step. The question is, what format are the Australian sprints going to take? Will they be team sprints like the highly regarded and unfortunately absent Hoppet night sprints? Maybe individual Knockout sprints? If they're teams, who gets to pick their teams. Perhaps all will be revealed in the winter edition of Australian Cross Country News, due sometime soon. Also provoking remark, the Australian 30km championship is in skating style, the same as in 1997. Did it used to be policy somewhere that the style of Nationals races should alternate from year to year?

However, the major absence from the race calendar is the Australian Interclub Relay Championships. When was the decision made to eliminate what potentially should be one of the major events of the Australian season? Come to think of it, perhaps there has been a plot to get rid of it for a while, demonstrated by its placing as a mid week event, and even on the day of other races. Maybe I am biased as a member of the reigning men's champion team (Birkebeiner!) but it is my opinion that the interclub relay championships should be on a weekend by itself, the pinacle of Australian club competition. Let ACT compete as a club of its own, let a couple of NSW clubs put in merged race teams, get the TAB to give out odds for the big day, bring in the TV crews and supporters, turn up the stereo and lets see all Australian talent going head to head. Fingers crossed that it was a typographical error soon to be rectified.

Does it state down below that skier profiles were coming soon? Just give it a little bit longer.

The Season Begins?? - June 7
Opening weekend and what do the XC Files know about snow report around the various resorts?? Absolutely nothing, but it is cold in Canberra. To find out the snow conditions, you can try the following links, Sno-Info and the Paddy Pallin Jindabyne snow report.

Not much more information on the Australian Institute of Winter Sport. It is still scheduled to be launched on July 1st and there is no concrete news on the cross country program yet. However, efforts are being made to ensure that at least a skeleton program is in place for the Australian season. A SAXC squad testing camp has now been scheduled for the 9th and 10th of July, and squad members should receive something in the mail if they haven't already. Hopefully by this camp everyone can be fully briefed on the program for the rest of the season.

A new section has been added to the XC files - The Training Files , edited by Ben Derrick. In the first issue, a look back into BBD's training diary and details of the Speed Kills Session of the Month competition.

The latest news from the FIS Congress recently held in the Czech Republic - the qualification standard has been lowered for World Cup competition. The standard, for the last few years at 75 FIS points, is now down to 50 FIS points. While this will have little effect on strong skiing nations, or on the USA where domestic FIS points are particularly low, this will make it difficult for Australians to break into the World Cup circuit. Although Anthony Evans and Paul Gray had FIS points below 50 in World Cup competition, neither reached this standard in Scandanavian Cup or other European FIS point races. More news from the FIS congress coming soon.

Athlete profiles for SAXC squad members are currently being compiled. The first profiles should start to appear on this site in the next week.

Okay nothing else just now. If you have any ground breaking news or good Australian ski links out there, send them in to banooer@hotmail.com

XC is the official website of the Skiing Australia Cross Country Committee. It is produced with the assistance of the Australian Sports Commission and the Kangaroo Hoppet. The editor can be contacted via hoppet@netc.net.au.