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Summer News 2000/2001

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2001 World Championships
Lahti Finland, February 15-25
Back to 2000/2001 Team Reports

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Australian Reports
General News - Race Briefs

The Australian Team
Ben Derrick
>>>>>>>>>> Paul Murray
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Camille Melvey

Carve the Elements
Team Leader / Head Coach - Finn Marsland
Coach / Wax Technician - Bob Cranage
Wax Technician - Marko Passila (Finland)
Team Psychologist - Rhiannon Palmer
Assistant - Warwick Cann (Drinks boy for 30km and 50km) 
The Competition Schedule
February 15
Women 15km Classic
Men 15km Classic
Women's Results
Men's Results
February 17
Men 10km/10km 1-day Pursuit
Classic Result
Pursuit Result
February 18
Women 5km/5km 1-day Pursuit
Classic Result
Pursuit Result
February 19
Men 30km Classic
February 20
Women 10km Classic
February 21
Women Sprint Freestyle
Men Sprint Freestyle
Women's Qualification
Men's Qualification
Women Final
Men Final
Women Summary

Men Summary

February 22
Men 4 by 10km Relay
February 23
Women 4 by 5km Relay
February 25
Women 30km Freestyle
Men 50km Freestyle
Men Summary

General News

February 13

A day and a half to the first competitions of the 2001 World Championships, the 15km classic for both men and women. News is probably around other websites already that Mika Myllylae, the star from the 1999 Worlds is sick and will probably miss the first race. Ben Derrick's sources tell him that if Myllylae is healthy enough to be able to start in any race, then he will win. A big call, with Elofsson and Alsgaard both showing very good form in the World Cup in Estonia last weekend. But there are lots of good skiers here and it will be more than a two or three horse race. Ben, Camille and Paul are all healthy and have been skiing very well in intensity sessions over the past few days. It is up to the waxing technicians now to give them good skis. Conditions have been changing a bit but generally it has been just below zero with granular icy snow.

The Norwegian team seem to have all dyed their hair blonde, or some say it is supposed to be gold. A swedish newspaper noted that Norway has not won a gold medal in the 5 previous World Championships in Lahti - with 12 medals up for grabs in the cross country events alone, this situation could well change.

February 14

After a long journey the team speed tester has finally made its way back to the team. Special thanks to Scott Dymont for accompanying it on it's world tour and to Robin McKeever for bringing it to Finland from Canada. And now, the bloody thing isn't working anyway. Such is life.

The Australian team is sharing a waxing cabin with Johann Muhlegg (winner of 1996 Kangaroo Hoppet and 2000 World Cup). Now skiing for Spain, Muhlegg has three Italian servicemen, including former Italian skier Silvano Barco. After some initial setbacks, wax testing went quite well today. One pair of skis for each of Ben, Paul, and Camille will be given to Start to glide wax, another has already been waxed up by Bob with mostly Swix wax. Track was still very icy/granular today, tomorrow it will be a little warmer and may get a little wetter. For grip wax, our pick of the day was Rode rossa and nera mixed, but many combinations worked and it will likely be similar tomorrow.

In the women's 15km Camille has start number 25, in a field of 67 skiers. The Masked Bookmaker's special tips has Virpi Kuitunen of Finland with the home ground advantage to take an upset victory over Bente Skari from Norway, with Olga Danilova the first of the Russians in third place.

In the men's 15km, Paul has start number 32 and Ben number 68 - the last skier before the red group. Mika Myllylae is on the start list at number 71, but despite Ben's inside word the MB's tips are: 1 - Janne Immonen, Finland, 2 - Andrus Veerpalu, Estonia, and 3 - Odd Bjorn Hjelmeset, Norway. Okay this is bypassing the big favourites Elofsson, Alsgaard and Myllylae, but you have to go out on a limb sometimes to get the big odds. Hjelmeset's third place is courtesy of his renowned special classic technique around corners - it's the podium or disqualification.

February 15

Not much news here. Apart from the races of course. A long day at the wax cabins with the two races on the same day. Opening ceremony, Bob Cranage carried the flag, special mention for the theatrical reconstruction of the classic Finnish "The Birth of Cessal" or something like that. Not too bad a start on the race tips, except for Immonen who pulled out.[Truth was that Immonen had to withdraw when he pulled his binding off his ski, the word was that he was feelling pretty good] Hot chocolates in the dining hall are not bad either. No reindeer for dinner today.

February 16

The start list is out for the men's one-day pursuit tomorrow - Paul has number 72 and Ben 81, out of 95 entries. look to the Lahti site for full start list. The "red" group starts first, instead of at the back as normal. Whether this is to give the seeded skiers a longer rest before the skate, or that they think the track will be faster early is unclear. If the conditions remain the same it shouldn't make to much difference. The 10km classic starts at 11am, and only the first 60 skiers make it through to the 10km skating pursuit, which starts at 3pm. It is a very tough ask for Paul and Ben to make this cut-off, however that is the goal, and we have waxed up skating skis just in case.

After his flying classic victory on Thursday, Per Elofsson has to come in as favourite for this event. Myllylae is on the start list again, and this time it will be a surprise if he doesn't start. He has a prime starting position at the back of the red group, however there are several skiers in the next start group who could shake the tree in the classic leg, including Bjervig from Norway, Immonen (if his bindings stay on his skis), and Fredriksson, the silver medal winner from the 15km. But in the skate is where most of the action will take place. The Masked Bookmaker picks 1- Elofsson, Sweden, 2 - Isometsae, Finland, and 3 - Myllylae, Finland, for the overall medals. It would be great to see someone like Vittoz from France pull out a big one. Alsgaard has a question mark over his head after the last race and could either crank or sink, and Muhlegg doesn't seem to quite have the form he showed in the Salt Lake City World Cup races.

From the athlete's village, Wadsworth from the USA is skipping the pursuit due to a stomach upset, the beds are standard army issue but apparently the Finnish team anticipated this and brought in their own beds, one phone in or out of the village is nowhere near enough, and the ice go-kart track just down on the lake is looking good for an intercontinental challenge.

February 17

After a long day the team decided to let their hair down a little with a scintillating game of scrabble. It is all action here in the athlete's village. To tomorrow's tips: 1- Kaisa Varis, Finland, 2 - Stephania Belmondo, Italy, 3- Julia Tchepalova, Russia. Bente Skari to start first after the classic and be caught at about 3.5km. Bjorn Daehlie tips Tchepalova it win in the Norwegian VG newspaper. It would be good if Canadian Beckie Scott could repeat her form from the Salt Lake City World Cup. Camille has start number 27 for the classic, out of 79 entries. The first 50 women qualify for the pursuit. This is probably a bit out of Camille's reach. Top 65 would be a very good result for her in this field.

February 18

Apart from the race today and the announcement of Jari Isometsae's disqualification for doping, there's not much more news for today. It was rumored that Myllylae would not start the 30km tomorrow, but he is on the start list. The Masked Bookmakers tips: 1 - Fredriksson, Sweden, 2 - Estil, Norway, 3 - Veerpalu, Estonia. But it was difficult to overlook Hjelmeset, and Ivanov from Russia won the 30km classic test event here last year.

February 19

Most of the news late yesterday and today has been about Isometsae. A pity because Kuitunen's victory in the pursuit was a fantastic achievement. Most Finn's seem quite embarrassed about the whole incident, although some believe Isometsae's story that he didn't realise that what he was doing would be constitute a doping offence. Either he is not very smart or he is not telling the truth. The big question is whether he was doing it because of naturally high hemoglobin or because he was artificially increasing his red blood count. This we may never know.

Ben Derrick's achievement for the day was finally getting his washing done at the house of team wax technician Marko Passila. The cost for clothing to be washed at the athlete's village started from about $3-4 for a pair of socks. Warwick Cann from Yackandanda turned up today - he is living in Finland for a year on rotary exchange, and will be helping to give drinks during the 50km on Sunday. He was to help out in the 30km today, however this was unneccessary as Paul Murray withdrew from the 30km to concentrate on the sprint.

So to the tips for tomorrow: Very hard to go past Skari in a classic race. But that would be too easy to tip, so 1 - Danilova, Russia, 2 - Skari, Norway, 3 - Kuitunen, Finland.

February 20

The sprint tomorrow is building up to be an exciting event. Apparently the crowd in the stadium has sold out for the first time at this championships. Pretty sure the most so far was for the men's pursuit day at about 41,000 people. The course is quite tough for a sprint, with a steady climb up out of the stadium, then a steeper pinch which they call the "Indian Hill". The trickiest part is the U-turn corner down into the stadium again, where valuable seconds can be gained or lost. The tough course may spread the times out a little, however it will still no doubt be cut-throat to make the top 16 and progress to the finals. The fields are slightly smaller than the previous races, 65 men and 60 women. Paul and Ben start with numbers 47 and 49, and Camille with number 45. No easy results here, the guys will have to really crank to finish higher than their start numbers, and that is probably way too much to ask from Camille, who has always been a lot stronger over longer distances.

The tips - very difficult as the slightest mistake in the qualification will mean no progression to the finals. So we'll go with the heart and pick 1 - Schlickenrieder, Germany, 2 - Zorzi, Italy, and 3 - Verdenius, Norway for the men,though expect to see Italians and Norwegians scattered throughout the finals. For the women a favourite and two upsets, 1 - Manninen, Finland, 2 - Saarinen, Finland, and 3 - Scott, Canada. That has to be a huge trifecta. Have to mention Alsgaard and Skari also as they have pretty good history.

February 22

With the sprint last night (followed by pizza and blueberry pie at Marko Passila's house) there was no time for a report yesterday. By all accounts the sprint was a great spectacle. Hetland's move into the last corner in the final deserves a special mention, we'll try a bring a video of it back to Australia.

The move of today was not Paul Murray's into the first corner on the ice go-kart track. A 360 followed by a couple of accidental donuts before he headed off in the right direction. A must for all visitors to Lahti. For the more cultural the musical fountain or Sibelius concert hall are worth a visit as well.

Bob Cranage left today for Estonia and the Tartu Ski Marathon. Bob's expertise in the waxing cabin has been greatly appreciated by all members of the team, and the story of Bob shooting clean at the biathlon World Championships in Lahti in 1982 is known word perfect. Thanks Bob for all your assistance and good luck in Estonia.

Australian Junior Team member Esther Bottomley is apparently somewhere in Lahti now, staying with the family of a Finnish exchange student who was in Mt Beauty. Esther, if you get this message come and meet us at the team waxing cabins at about 8am on Sunday morning.

A bit late now for tips in the men's relay, for the record no-one in the team picked Finland to finish higher than 3rd. For the women's relay tomorrow, bets are out for the Finnish girls to make it a home relay double. Russia will no doubt be strong, but Finland are on a roll. Norway to be up there in the classic legs, but Italy to come home in the skating legs to take 3rd place.

February 24

One more day of racing to finish up the 2001 World Championships. It has been pretty cold for about 3 days now, below -20 at times, and it is supposed to be around -13 to -15 tomorrow. While Camille is quite happy about the cold conditions, Ben would prefer it to be a bit warmer. The snow at this temperature is quite slow and will make for some tough races. There are 73 women and 76 men on the 30km and 50km start lists, Camille has bib number 8 and Ben number 32. For Ben in particular this the event at this championships which he is most suited to, and the team is optimistic for the best Australian result of the championship.

For Australians who have viewed Eurosport cross country coverage, there has been a refreshing change to the English commentary team. Nina Kemppel from the US ski team has been assisting long standing commentator David Goldstrom, obviously only in races that she isn't in. We haven't witnessed her skills in full yet, but hopefully she will make less mistakes than Goldstrom, who is notorious for leaving sentences unfinished and mixing up skiers.

Other news from the village is that the entire Finnish team was tested two days ago by WADA, the World Anti-Doping Association. It was called a "surprise" test, though the Finnish team chief said that it was just what they needed to clear suspicion from the rest of team. Good of WADA to come along and help them out. The bigger surprise would probably be if anyone tested positive to anything from the surprise test.[Afternote - how wrong this evaluation turned out to be. See special report.

One last batch of race tips to make up for some of the dodgy ones over the past weeks. In the 30km, 1 - Julia Tchepalova, Russia, 2 - Stefania Belmondo, Italy, 3 - equal between Kaisa Varis, Finland, and Hilde Pedersen, Norway. What a underhand way of getting in two chances at the trifecta. In the 50km, 1 - Johann Muhlegg, Spain, 2 - Per Elofsson, Sweden, 3 - Pietro Piller Cottrer, Italy.

Final Report - March 1

Finally here is the last report from the World Championships, a bit late yes, but so things happen. The news since the end of the championships has been much bigger than everything in it. But first, back to the final day of competition.

Despite predictions to the contrary, the temperature was below minus 20 at the start time of the women's 30km. The race was moved forward, and then cancelled, much to the dismay of Camille and many other skiers. The temperature was slowly rising, and then the men´s 50km went ahead after a further hours delay. See the race report for further details.

The news breaking during the 50km was that another Finn, Janne Immonen, had tested positive to the same substance as Isometsae, and that heads were about to roll amongst the Finnish team. More of this and much more to come in a special report.

And so ended the 2001 World Championships. To summarise the Australian results; Camille skied about as well as could be hoped for, improving with every race and achieving her personal best in the 10km classic, but she was disappointed not to start in the 30km. Paul skied a little below his potential in the two classic races, had his best result in the sprint, and though he was aiming higher he has come a very long way in his first year of senior international competition. For Ben, despite adverse conditions and fading badly at the end of the 50km, he still achieved a personal best World Championship result. It is just a pity that there were no other skating races (apart from the sprint) for him to have a go at.

Special thanks to Warwick Cann for helping with drinks in the 50km, and to Marko Passila, Start ski wax, and Bob Cranage for great waxing support and good skis throughout the championships. Special note must also be made of some fine Karaoke performances by Australian team members in downtown Lahti.

Until next time....

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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.