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Australian Team Reports 2001/2002

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(Hit "Refresh" for Latest Update)
Dec 2 - The Campaign Begins
Dec 8 - The Eve of the First World Cup
Dec 9 - Solid Result for Murray
Dec 12 - Aussies Assemble in Ramsau
Dec 17 - Continental Breakfast
Dec 22 - A Tough Day in Ramsau
Dec 24 - Christmas Eve
Dec 31 - New Year Maria (?)
Jan 11 - As Time Goes By
Jan 14 - Davos Swiss Cup
Jan 20 - The Eve of the World Junior Championships
World Junior Championship Special
Andrew Mock - A Warped Perspective (Part 7)
February 6 - U23 in Val di Fiemme
February 8 - VDF Pursuit
XC Files SLC Couch Special
February 9 - A Sprint Report
February 11 - Mass Start in VDF

Esther Bottomley in Swiss Cup
Davos, Switzerland, January 2002

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01/02 NSW Team Reports
Report 1 - Nov 12
Report 2 - Nov 23
Report 3 - Dec 14
Report 4 - Dec 19
Report 6 - Feb 13

Australian Team Reports 2001/2002

February 11 - Mass Start in VDF

The mass start races in the OPA U23 event were yesterday, however the team was busy packing up and driving around parades in Bolzano all afternoon. Now Andrew Wynd has flown from Milan, Esther Bottomley and Rhiannon Palmer are waiting to fly out from Frankfurt, and everyone else is holed up for the night near Munich.

Katie Calder skied a very promising race in the 15km freestyle against a tough field of skiers (almost all ranked considerably higher than her). Starting at the back of the mass start, KT worked hard to pass skiers from Germany, France, Italy and Switzerland. Closing on a couple of USA girls at the end of the second lap, she was sitting within 10% of the race leaders and looking at a solid FIS point result. Unfortunately fatigue began to set in, and although she didn't drop any places Katie lost quite a bit of time on the last lap to end up with FIS points of 160.49, in 32nd place from 39 starters. Points were not helped by a Russian without FIS points winning the race, and also the high FIS point factor applied for mass start races (the latter only helps you if you are up in the lead pack).

Wyndy was up against it from the word go in the 30km freestyle, starting with by far the highest FIS points of all skiers in the race. Dropping off from the pack quite early, Wyndy then acquitted himself admirably in tough conditions. Closing on skiers from the USA, Wyndy was continually frustrated by them pulling out and leaving him to ski at the back of the pack alone. Only one of the USA skiers managed to finish the event, and over 10 skiers withdrew from countries including Russia, Sweden,and Norway.

Results in the Summer News section.

Waiting for the Transjurassienne
This leaves just two Australian Team skiers in Europe, waiting for the Transjurassienne in France. Ben Derrick has been training hard in Ramsau, while Camille Melvey is returning from Estonia tomorrow with Allison McArdle after the Tartu Ski Marathon. Camille finished 8th in Estonia, and to give an idea of the snow conditions Allison didn't ski because she didn't want to trash her skis (coaches have this option!). No other details yet available. The Transjurassienne apparently has snow, although the word is that the final decision will be made tomorrow.

February 9 - A Sprint Report

Just a short report because it is the middle of the night and there are mass start races tomorrow. The sprint events of the OPA U23 Championship were held today. The track was about 1100m long, and in the words of Georg Zipfel the OPA coordinator, "The sprint course of the future". Zipfel even suggesting that this sort of course should be used for the World Championships next year. Short, fast, a couple of tight turns but a wide track, and the entire way within full view from the stadium. It was agreed by most coaches there that it was a positive development, with the exception of the Norwegian and Italian coaches, which was strange as their athletes won the events! Incidently, though the technique of the 2003 World Championship sprint - originally set in classic technique - was supposed to be debated later this year in FIS congress, programs out already are adamant that it will be in free technique.

Esther Bottomley and Katie Calder were not completely satisfied with their races, but the results were quite reasonable. 128 and 130 FIS points respectively, which will lower both girls' rankings for the next year. Andrew Wynd struggled a little bit more with the sprint, and was stealing the Ben Derrick line of "I am not a sprinter".

Race results to be included soon in the Summer News section.

The 15km and 30km mass start events are tomorrow. Katie and Wyndy will be the only Australian starters, as Esther is hanging up the skis until the Australian winter.

February 8 - VDF Pursuit

After a month and a half of no snow in Val di Fiemme, it decided to rain and then dump 20cm of wet snow over the entire valley and the race course the night before the first event of the OPA U23 championship.

Not a great start for the Australians in the classic legs of the pursuit races. Though grip wax was quite good (Rode red special), the only person to feel good skiing was Katie Calder, who then proceded to hug the snow at the point of highest speed on the biggest downhill of the course. Losing lots of time, KT was not a very happy young lady in the wax room but retained her composure. Andrew Wynd was reassured by one of the Greeks at the start of the pursuit, who said to him: "Hey, we may not ski so fast, but we are great lovers."

The skating legs were a lot better, with KT pulling back several skiers and losing only another minute to the race leaders, Rhiannon skating well and improving her race % from over 20 to nearly 15, and Wyndy hauling in a Greek guy from nearly a minute behind.

Results and brief race report in Summer News section.

Esther Bottomley, Katie Calder, and Rhiannon Palmer
Val di Fiemme, Italy, February 2002

February 6 - U23 in Val di Fiemme

Okay a bit of a break in reports there, the World Junior Championships are long over and the next competition on the calendar is the inaugural OPA Under 23 Championship in Val di Fiemme. Just squeezing in ahead of the Winter Olympics, this starts tomorrow on the 2003 World Championship tracks. Not sure if anything will make it onto the 2003 website, but just in case the address is

The Australian skiers competing in this competition are Katie Calder, Esther Bottomley, Rhiannon Palmer, and Andrew Wynd. Wyndy made this a stop-over on his way home after 6 weeks of skiing in Norway, and Katie came across fresh from the Austrian Championships in Abtenau - where she finished 6th in the open pursuit, behind the 5 German women going to the Winter Olympics. As for the World Cup races in VDF at the start of January, the track here is 100% man-made, all about is bare apart from the narrow Marcialonga track stretching the length of the valley. (Incidentally Ben Derrick and Camille Melvey competed in the Marcialonga, but that is another story probably best told by Ben when he has a chance to sit down and write it. Ben is now in Ramsau training for the Transjurassienne, Camille is with Al McArdle in Estonia where hopefully the Tartu Ski Marathon hasn't been cancelled).

A start list hasn't been seen yet, but there is a stackload of countries here, including Norway, Sweden, Russia, Canada, the USA, and of course the OPA countries. Possibly more than were here for the World Cup. The competitions are:
One day pursuit on Feb 7: 5-5 for women and 7.5-7.5 for men
Sprint freestyle on Feb 9: 1km for both women and men
Mass start on Feb 10: 15km for women and 30km for men.

So we will try and post some reports from the races here; Keep a lookout also for the XC Files Salt Lake City Couch Special, coming soon.

January 20 - The Eve of the World Junior Championships

The 2002 World Junior Championships for cross country skiing open tomorrow in Schonach Germany, with the first competitions beginning the day after. The competition schedule is as follows:

January 22 - Women 15km Classic Mass Start / Men 30km Classic Mass Start
January 24 - Women 5km Freestyle / Men 10km Freestyle
January 26 - Women 1km Sprint Freestyle / Men 1km Sprint Freestyle
January 27 - Women 4 by 5km Relay / Men 4 by 10km Relay

The Australian Team for these championships is as follows:

Manager: Brian Keeble
Coaches: Finn Marsland, Nick Almoukov
Athletes: Rhiannon Palmer, Esther Bottomley, Ben Sim, Andrew Mock, Chris Darlington (Sally Cunningham non-starting)
Assistant Technician: Andrew Circosta

There are also some Australian supporters here in Schonach, including Jan and Kevin and Peta Mock, Tony and Kirsten Palmer and Lyn Clearihan, and NSW juniors Ewan Watson and Jake Roarty.

Australian Team reports will be posted regularly on this site, though results will likely appear more quickly on the official site - The conditions at the tracks in Schonach are deteriorating, with warm weather and winds the last few days and rain expected for the first races on Tuesday. Very wet klister conditions at the moment.

Other Recent News:

FIS International races were held in Tarvisio, Italy, near the Slovenian border, on January 16 and 17. 16 year old Ben Sim put in a great performance to finish 3rd in the men's open class 15km freestyle on the 17th, behind Joze Mehle from Slovenia(the highest ranked Slovenian in distance events) and Gianni Rupil from Italy. Chris Darlington also skied solidly, finishing 10th. However with Mehle the only skier with decent FIS points the race penalty was very high, about 112, which would give Ben points of about 132. Katie Calder skied the classic race on the 16th, finishing 9th with about 136 FIS points despite slow skis, but unfortunately came down sick and withdrew from the skating event. Classic race FIS points for Ben and Chris were approximately 138 and 188. Haven't got the official results, but they should be available sometime from the FIS website (look for Tarvisio Jan 16 and 17).

January 14 - Davos Swiss Cup

Some promising results in the last competition before the World Junior Championship. Andrew Mock scored his lowest ever FIS points, 111.03 in the 10km freestyle Swiss Cup in Davos, finishing 49th in an open field of 87 starters. Rhiannon Palmer finished 20th in the women's open 5km freestyle, with FIS points of 146.07.

Esther Bottomley and Sally Cunningham finished 30th and 43th in the 5km, Esther feeling the effects of a slight cold during the week. Andrew Circosta finished 77th in the 10km, scoring personal best FIS points of 154.72 but falling short by 0.6 seconds of beating British skier Allan Eason. Results in the International News section.

Mockie felt pretty good physically, though said there was still room for improvement. Rhiannon thought her form was picking up and was looking forward to cutting training volume in the next week before the WJC 15km classic.

Skiing in Davos has been sensational. A little cold first thing in the morning, but blue skies and sunny weather warming up to a few degrees below zero in the afternoon. Accommodation is an apartment right in the middle of the tracks, not so cheap but what is in Davos. For more details of Davos and the race, look to Mockie's latest edition of A Warped Perpective.

The team departs Davos tomorrow for Schonach and the final preparation for the championships.

January 11 - As Time Goes By

One day it's New Years Eve and the next the Australian cross country skiing 2002 Winter Olympic campaign is over. Apologies for the delays between updates. The following was mailed out after the last Sprint World Cup in Val di Fiemme:

The last Sprint World Cup before the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic games was held today January 6th in Val di Fiemme, Italy. Paul Murray put in a solid performance to finish in 57th place and score his second best FIS points of the season, but unfortunately was outside the Australian Olympic qualification standard.

Only 61 competitors started the men's 1.5km freestyle event (compared to 103 in the opening sprint in Cogne), almost entirely specialist sprinters, making a top half of field result extremely difficult. Ben Derrick also competed, however he is definitely not a specialist sprinter and signed the list in 61st place.

It has been a rewarding experience to travel and work with these two Australian skiers over the last two months, but also disappointing. It was heart-breaking to see Ben Derrick's chances thrown out the window with chicken pox at the start of December, and to see Paul Murray fall short of the target after coming so close. Both skiers should be commended for their professionalism and dedication in pursuit of their goals.

Ben Derrick will now turn his focus towards ski-marathons for a month, while Paul Murray will return almost immediately to Australia to start saving money for next year.

Thanks to everyone for all their support and well wishes.


Finn Marsland
National Team Coach

At the date of this update Ben Derrick is with Camille Melvey and Allison McArdle in Dobbiaco preparing for the Pustertaler Marathon, and Paul Murray is en route to Sweden to investigate training opportunities for 2003.

Val Di Fiemme Sprint World Cup, Italy, Jan 6
It was always going to be tough to qualify for the Olympics here when we found out the sprint field was only 60 or so deep and basically full of guys specialising in sprints. Paul was lamenting the lost opportunity from Cogne at the start of December, the only sprint this season with a decent sized field. It will be interesting to see what it will be like in Salt Lake City, to see how many countries enter skiers who have not been on World Cup. The course was quite tough, much closer to the 2001 Lahti World Championship course than the other World Cup races this season. Temperatures around minus 6-9 degrees, on 100% artificial snow.

Paul Murray finished in 57th place out of 61 starters, with Ben Derrick in 61st. Ben wasn't quite 100% healthy and basically only started to improve Paul's chances by a very small margin. Paul skied the start and the hills well, perhaps fading slightly over the top of the course and fatiging in the finish straight. He ended up 13.27 seconds behind the fastest qualifier Bjorn Lind of Sweden, with 57 FIS points. This will drop his average to around 55 on the next FIS ranking list, down from 95 at the start of the season. A fantastic improvement, just not quite enough this time around.

Furtwangen Continental Cup, Germany Jan 4-5
While the World Cup Team headed across to Italy, the junior team headed to Germany for the Continental Cup in Furtwangen. All the skiers competed in a 1km sprint, but then just Rhiannon Palmer and Andrew Mock completed the 5 and 10km classic events, due to a sore groin for Andrew Circosta, a bit of a cold for Sally Cunningham, and just making sure for Esther Bottomley. Results in International News section. More details are to be revealed in the 4th edition of A Warped Perpective.

In Short From Team NSW
There hasn't been much news coming from Nick Almoukov, Katie Calder and the NSW boys for a while, but they have been covering quite a bit of ground and producing some impressive results. The following excerpted from emails from Katie and Nick:

From Katie:
Swiss Championships - Campra, Switzerland Dec 28:... [missed] the wax in the classic leg of the pursuit. Went with silver klister at -4 and powder. Need I say more. Had to stop and kick off the wax 6 times and could hardly go done the hill. None the less skied a bit better in the skate and if it was skate race only, would have got 106 FIS points. Was 9.8% behind Brigitte Albrecht in that one. Ended up with 130FIS points. Came 16th out of 62 and then straight away jumped in the car and headed east towards Zakopane. What a crazy road trip through Czech. The pizza in Prague made it all worth while. I drove while Nick slept until midnight that night. Cranked on the Autobahn becasuse Nick was asleep. After another 2 days straight of driving and no training at all, arrived in Zakopane. Surprisingly, I managed to get a bit sick, but not too bad. Really tired and worn out before the sprint.

FIS International Sprint, Zakopane, Poland, Dec 30: Qualified 6th with 139FIS points, penalty was a whopping 107 FIS points. Never seem to race well in the time trial. Did okay in the other 3 races and ended up winning the B Final and won a complete china kitchen set. Add that to the bowl I won yesterday, and the kettle and coffee strainer Simbo won and we are a dishwasher short of a kitchen.

From Nick:
On 29th December was a [Slovakian]selection race 10km for the World Junior Championships. Chris came 6th 33.29 in Junior division. Ben won 10km 31.11 in the 84-85 div, ahead by 48 sec. If overall he would have be second.

Jake [Roarty]and Ewan [Watson]did very well too in 86-87 div.. 19th and 29th out of 32 competitors. Next weekend was a sprint. Ben won again Jake and Ewan were 7th and 8th in the final-B, out of 19 competitors.

On Sunday[Jan 6] Ben won a classic race 10km. Chris was 15th overall in 15km race out of 23 starters.

Next report likely not until the full junior team (Nick's group and Keebs' group) arrives in Schonach Germany for the World Junior Championships.

December 31 - New Year Maria (?)

A couple of race options in Austria on New Years Eve, with a classic race in St Jakob down near the Slovenian border and a skate race at Kossen near the German border and Reit im Winkl. Some no shows however, as Ben Derrick woke up with a sore throat, Esther Bottomley opted for a race pace in Ramsau (less travel), Rhiannon Palmer stuck to her training plan and skied distance, Andrew Circosta strained his groin slightly earlier in the week, and Sally Cunningham had been feeling a bit light headed and getting blood noses.

Kossen Sylvesterlauf, Austria, December 31
Camille Melvey and Andrew Mock chose the skating race and headed off to Kossen with Supercoach Al McArdle. Camille won this race last year, but this time she had to settle for second place and a huge beer glass for a prize.

Mocky Report (transcribed loosely): Got there a little late and so didn't get to put skis up the front of the starting field. Then some guy in front fell, and he spent the first 8km mixed up in madness, working though about 70 skiers. When he finally got through the front pack had broken away, so he lead the front of the second pack. Skis weren't so good, guys would pass him on the down, then wait for him to come to the front to drive the train. Started to pick up on the leading bunch and overtook stragglers, but then at the finish they jumped out from behind and outsprinted him. 12th overall, 2nd junior, only about 2min off the pace. Pretty happy with that for a first race, felt good and did all of the work in the chasing pack.
Andrew Mock - A warped perspective - Part Two. Now Up!

Bad Kleinkirchheim moved to St Jakob Fischer Langlauf, Austria December 31
Paul Murray took the classic option and headed down to St Jakob with Brian Keeble and Andrew Circosta as spectator. 10km mass-start. Paul's skis were good and he broke away early in a group of four, including (apparently) one of the top Austrian juniors, and also an ex national team member. Paul was feeling good and went to the front on the last lap, dropping all but Mesotitsch (the junior). Leading into the finish Paul was looking good for the win, then on the last bend - according to Paul and spectators - the Austrian cut the corner and body-slammed Paul out off the track into the soft snow. There was enough of a gap that Paul was able to get up and cross the line for second place, however he was not a happy chappy. But a good race anyway.

Salzburg Sprint World Cup, Austria, December 29
Sensational location for a sprint race. Shitty weather. But still a great event. Bang in the middle of Salzburg "Old Town", adjacent to Mozart Place and around all sorts of historic buildings and squares that could be named if 95% of the day wasn't spent in a tent waxing skis. (The other 5% testing skis round and round those sites). Good crowd despite the constant rain, including the rest of the Australian team across from Ramsau to watch and cheer.

Paul Murray finished in 46th place in the field of 57. It was a better race than in Garmisch, though still about 7 seconds short of the top half of the field. Like Garmisch (below), only a top class sprinter's field, and especially tough starting up the back on a track that seemed to get slower under the constant rain. This leaves one chance left to qualify for Salt Lake City, the freestyle sprint in Val di Fiemme on January 6. Hopefully with the Christmas break over and two distance races in Italy as well countries will start their full sprint quota, and we wont have to make world cup points to get into the top half of the field.

Ben Derrick's quote:"This is a great place to finish my sprint career." Ben finished in 56th place, surprised but happy to be ahead of one of the Austrians.

Garmisch Sprint World Cup, Germany, December 27
Not a great day for Australian sprinting. Something was not quite right for Paul Murray and Ben Derrick, whether it was skis, the course, the snow, mental preparation, anyway it didn't quite happen. Both skiers scored about their worst FIS points ever in World Cup events, 106.9 for Paul and 134.8 for Ben. Placings weren't helped by a severely reduced World Cup field, basically the seeded "red group" and 1 or 2 of the best sprinters from the top countries. Even only 2 "national group" skiers from Germany. No Japanese, no French, no Czechs, no Slovakians, no Canadians, no Russians, no Belorussians, no Ukrainians, no Kazakhs, no Lithuanians, no Danes, no Romanians, ahh, you get the picture. 47th place for Paul and 48th for Ben. Nice place Garmisch, wouldn't want to race there.

Austrian Cup, St Jakob, December 27
While the World Cup sprinters were in Garmisch the rest of the Ramsau crew meandered down to St Jakob for an Austrian Cup race. With a few U-turns en-route it was lucky the race start was later than expected. 5km skate for the girls, 10km for the boys. Unfortunately a copy of the result list was not obtained so this is just a short summary for each person. Esther Bottomley skied well and finished 4th in the junior girls, only about 30s behind the winner. Rhiannon Palmer didn't feel good and stopped after one lap. Andrew Circosta skied solidly in a tough field. Andrew Mock had a sore throat and didn't race. Sally Cunningham didn't get to start because Finn overlooked her entry. Camille Melvey skied OK. Skis were generally not that good, as waxing tips were given from Germany in totally different conditions.

Post Script from Christmas Day, by Finn Marsland: "I apologise to the rest of the team for using test skis with fluoro powder for the Team Downhill Handicap Sprint , despite having the knowledge that waxing of skis was strictly forbidden. I acknowledge also that although technically the skis were waxed three days before and not rewaxed, using them was not in the Christmas Spirit, and without them I would not have won in spectacular fashion lunging past Allison McArdle on the line, and I would probably not have kicked Big Benny's butt on the way down to the stadium. Although he was outsprinted by Esther in the straight so who knows."

A Happy New Year from the Australian Cross Country Ski Team

December 24 - Christmas Eve

The Australian XC teams in Ramsau - junior and senior - have now all moved in together to the one guest-house up the end of the valley. We were joined on the night of the 22nd by the Australian Biathlon Team - Cameron Morton and Mark Raymond, recently returned from World Cups in Slovakia. Cameron has been in cranking skiing form, and some of the time in decent shooting form. He was one shot from reaching the Winter Olympic qualifying standard in the last distance event, and before missing two targets at the final shoot was sitting up in the top 30. Cam and Mark have now left to stay with Peter Moysey from New Zealand (also on the biathlon circuit) over Christmas, though we may catch up again before the New Year.

Yesterday some members of the team completed a 5km time trial on the Ramsau tracks, and Camille Melvey and Andrew Circosta were so keen they did the 5km twice and three times respectively with a break in between. Some times below:

Andrew Circosta

TT #1
TT #2
TT #3


Camille Melvey

TT #1
TT #2

Skied wrong course

Rhiannon Palmer

TT #1


Esther Bottomley

TT #1


A great effort from Circa to get faster and faster over the three time trials. It was very close between Rhiannon and Esther, with Rhiannon making up time on the first half of the 2.5km loops and Esther reeling her in each time into the stadium. Sally Cunningham also skied one lap, still not quite 100% healthy but almost. The juniors will likely get a chance to race against the Austrians this Thursday in a competition near Villach, close to the Slovenian border.

For Christmas day tomorrow Al McArdle and Paul Murray have arranged for a handicap race amongst the team after the morning session: From the top of the Ramsau tracks (near Cafe Herold if you know the tracks) down to the stadium, should take just a couple of minutes. Meanwhile back at the guest-house the turkey will hopefully be roasting away nicely - unless our instructions in German to our host were misinterpreted and she and her son are off eating our turkey with the neighbors.

Merry Christmas to all from the Australian Cross Country Ski Team.

December 22 - A Tough Day in Ramsau

It was a tough day for Ben Derrick today in the 30km World Cup in Ramsau Austria. The 28 year old Australian was the last to cross the line in the mass start event, although a significant number of skiers failed to finish.

Given that Ben's first ski after having Chicken Pox was only 8 days ago, it was incredible that he made it onto the starting line and a courageous effort to finish. Realistically, it would have taken a miracle to achieve a good result with this preparation. Despite this knowledge, the result today was a major disappointment for Ben and the team. This World Cup was basically the last chance to qualify for the 2002 Winter Olympics in a distance event, although there are still opportunities in sprint.

Ben was further hampered in the event by average skis. Hopes were high when Ben was sitting with the main bunch a the top of the first lap, however he lost contact on the glide back down towards the stadium. The temperature warmed up in the morning to just a few degrees below zero, and it started snowing about 45 minutes before the start of the race. It wasn't so much the wax on the skis (we had the same as Hoffmann, who finished 3rd) but the structure, or rather lack of it. But Ben wasn't Robinson Crusoe with slow skis - most of the German team were suffering and one of the Austrians yelled "scheisse skis" to his wax technician every time he came over the bridge.

The 30km event was won by Per Elofsson from Sweden, who came from behind in the final straight to outsprint Norwegian biathlon star Ole Einer Bjorndalen. Carl Swenson from the USA finished 11th, the best USA result in a World Cup in Europe (Justin Wadsworth finished 8th in Salt Lake City last January) for many a year.

The next Sprint World Cups for the Australian team are in Garmisch, Germany, on December 27 ,and Salzburg, Austria, on December 29. Paul Murray and Ben Derrick will compete in these events.

December 17 - Continental Breakfast

Some controversy in the lead-up to the Ramsau Continental Cup (below) as race organisers were unable to give confirmation of starts for Australian skiers (supposedly only top 60 from FIS points list). All made the grade and then they let 72 men start anyway. And then they wanted to restrict the relays to 3 teams from OPA nations (western Europe) only, and then other teams to a maximum of 24, and no mixed teams. Finally they caved on that too, in the interest of giving all nations the opportunity to compete. With Ben Derrick recovering from chicken pox Paul Murray arranged to ski the relay with Leftaris Fafalis from Greece, who is a fairly decent sprinter (55.17 FIS points). Then BBD decided he was ready to ski again after all, so he raced with Andrew Mock. So all athletes skied the sprint relay except from Sally Cunningham (not quite healthy) and Andrew Circosta. None of the newly arrived juniors skied the Duathlon event - the sprint relay was considered enough intensity after just one week.

Ramsau Continental Cup, Austria December 15-16
Results in International News section.
The Duathlon was considered a pretty fun by spectators and competitors alike. Any room in the 2002 Australian Calendar? Under the control of German TD Georg Zipfel the stadium area was very strictly controlled. All coaches out 5 minutes before the start, overtaking only on the outside of the change boxes, skis to be completely changen within the box. Paul considered changing his boots, but considering the adventures of Carl Swenson (see international news) opting to classic in skating boots was a much better choice.

In the women's duathlon Katie Calder and Camille Melvey skied most of the classic leg together. Katie tried a few times to overtake, but was answered each time with a surge from Camille. Camille led the two into the change after 5km in 37th place (junior and senior women skied together). Then Katie got going and skied a pretty solid skating leg, leaving Camille behind and overtaking an Austrian and a Slovenian, and nearly catching another one of each in the finishing straight. So a good first race for Katie, but not good for FIS points thanks to the 1000 F-factor used for mass start events.

In the junior men's 15km duathlon Ben Sim put in a very impressive first-race performance to finish in 23rd place from a field of 45. Ben skied well on both classic and skating legs, but lost time in the changover with the slowest change of all junior men. Chris Darlington waxed a little too short for the classic leg, and so was already pretty stuffed by the start of the skate. The leading juniors caught him on his 5th lap, so he was forced to retire in 39th place.

Finally to the men's 15km and Paul Murray's first distance race of the season. Struggling like Darlo with underwaxed skis, Paul may also have started a bit too fast trying to stay with the leading bunch. He made a good change, but then on the skating leg backed off a bit from max pace in the interest of lasting the distance. Paul ended up in 47 place, also with terrible FIS points, and feeling a bit underdone for distance races after 6 months of focussing on sprints. Good training though.

Sprint Relay
Some of the junior skiers were a little apprehensive about competing against a senior Continental Cup field in their first intensity session of the season. However they all skied creditably and showed good signs for the coming month. The teams: Calder/Melvey and Bottomley/Palmer in the women's 3 by 1.2 km event, and Fafalis/Murray, Mock/Derrick, and Darlington/Sim in the men's 5 by 1.2km event.

Esther got a good start in the women's relay, mixing it with the senior teams. Katie was not far behind, and overtook Esther before the first change. Rhiannon overtook Camille gliding into the first hill, but then lost momentum by standing on the ski of one of the Swiss skiers (Yes the swiss skier lost more time). Camille regained the advantage and lead the Swiss team and Hungarians into the change. After two legs each Esther and Rhiannon withdrew because Esther was suffering from asthma. Katie and Camille skied on strongly to finish in 15th place.

A blow for Darlo at the start of the men's relay when he broke a pole (Or as Darlo puts it, a Turk broke his pole, though close examination of the start list reveals no Turkish teams. It may have been one of the Iranians.).  Leftaris Fafalis did a good job starting from the back of the field (mixed team) to get he and Paul up with the leading bunch, where they stayed about the first 4 laps. When the pack split up they see-sawed from leg to leg with teams from Czech, Switzerland and Slovenia. Mockie and BBD weren't far off the pack for a while, then had a battle with teams from Switzerland and Hungary. Darlo and Ben Sim had it tough trying to catch up from behind, and though they took in Moldavia and Iran, before they could make enough time on any else the leading pack caught them on their fourth lap and they had to stop. 7 teams were caught, with BBD and Mockie the last to fall along with Hungary. Leftaris put Paul back up into 17th place on the final change, then Czech and Switzerland overtook him on the hill. But they didn't reckon on Paul's finishing speed and he came from behind in the final straight to reclaim 17th place.

So now we say good bye to Nick, Katie, Ben and Darlo, as they head off for a couple of weeks training in Slovakia. At the start of January they will come back down to Slovenia for races in Tarvisio (across the border in Italy), and then Nick, Ben and Darlo head across to Germany to join the rest of the team for the World Junior Championships.

BBD report: Felt okay in the sprint relay for first intensity session after chicken pox. Did on-snow strength today also feeling good. The next two days will be intervals and a race pace, followed by two days to recover before the 30km World Cup. Top 50% of the field may sound like an extremely tough task from here, but so far so good.

For Paul M, a week and a half of tough training and then taper for the next World Cup Sprints in Garmisch and Salzburg.

For the juniors here in Ramsau, training has been going pretty well, even Sally who hasn't been quite healthy in the last week has been skiing easy for the last two days. Mockie, Rhiannon and Esther all felt quite good in the sprint relay, or at least until the Asthma kicked in for Esther. Tomorrow they have to opportunity to train down in Schladming with the Austrian junior team trained by Maria Theurl (Former Austrian team, bronze medal at 1999 World Champs), and then again on snow on Thursday. General junior team report from Mockie on the way soon. (Now Up!)

December 12 - Aussies Assemble in Ramsau

From all over the place members of the Australian Cross Country Ski Team have come together to Ramsau in Austria. From Cogne came Ben Derrick, Paul Murray and Finn Marsland, from Munich newly arrived to Europe Brian Keeble with Esther Bottomley, Rhiannon Palmer, Sally Cunningham, Andrew Mock and Andrew Circosta, from Switzerland Camille Melvey and Allison McArdle, and Nick Almoukov was already here with Katie Calder, Chris Darlington and Ben Sim. Skiing conditions here are very good, stacks of snow and it keeps on falling.

Apart from the snow, the other attraction in Ramsau is the Continental Cup this weekend, when the first "Duathlon" test race of the season will take place. The Duathlon event involves changing equipment and technique from classic to skating in the middle of the race. We are waiting now to hear how many Australians will be able to start, as a limit of 60 persons per event (based on FIS points) has been set to avoid too much chaos in the changover zone. There is also a sprint relay event on the Sunday, which will likely be the first hard session for the newly arrived juniors.

BBD Report: For the second day in a row Ben has been up and moving, starting to feel a bit better but also quite weak. Will think about possibly going for a ski on Friday.

The national team would like to welcome its new clothing sponsor, Yoko of Finland. Hats and gloves were awaiting the team in Ramsau, and race suits and warm-up suits are expected this weekend. To check out some of the team's gear click on the link below. Also delivered to Ramsau was a supply of energy food and drink from PowerBar. We did have to explain to Darlo that he still has to buy other food and that he cannot live on PowerBars alone.

December 9 - Solid Performance from Murray

Cogne Sprint World Cup, Italy, December 9
A promising 2001/2002 World Cup debut for Paul Murray today in Cogne Italy. The 24 year old school teacher from Mt Beauty recorded his best World Cup result and best FIS points of 46.96, Australia's best FIS points since Anthony Evans in Ramsau in 1998. Paul finished 80th out of a field of 103 in the 1.5km qualifying time trial, just 10.02 seconds behind the fastest qualifier Christian Zorzi of Italy and only 3.5 seconds outside a top half of field result. Top time trial results in the Summer News section.

Zorzi went on to win a very tight final in a sprint with Hetland from Norway and Hasler from Liechtenstein. The women's final was won by Katerina Neumannova from the Czech Republic ahead of Skofterud from Norway and Tchepalova from Russia.

With this result after just one week on snow Paul is looking forward to his next World Cup sprint races after Christmas. In particular the freestyle sprint in downtown Salzburg on December 29 should provide a good opportunity to gain some more seconds.

Ben Derrick update: Feeling crap and incredibly spotty.

With no-one racing now in Brusson the team will go directly to Ramsau in Austria. In Ramsau Camille Melvey will join the team, having raced in the Continental Cup in Goms Switzerland this weekend (no news on results yet), the junior team also arrives in Ramsau tomorrow, and also the NSW team under Nick Almoukov is expected in Ramsau this coming week. So one big (hopefully) happy family (with BD in quarantine).

December 8 - The Eve of the First World Cup

This report comes to you from Cogne in Italy. The first World Cup event of the season for the Australian Cross Country Ski Team is tomorrow and for the moment the news is mixed. We are lucky to be having the races here at all, as the track is 100% artificial snow with bare ground all around. Surprisingly the snow is quite clean, and it is hard and fast and very abrasive. There was a classic World Cup race today, but this was not on our schedule. The times were very fast, just over 23 minutes for 10km for the men.

The race tomorrow is a freestyle sprint, which Paul Murray has been concentrating on over the last six months. Ben Derrick was to do the sprint as well, even though his focus is on longer skating races and specifically the 30km in Ramsau in two weeks time. Paul had a promising warm-up sprint race last weekend in Switzerland just after getting off the plane from Australia - promising in that he was up in contention for the finals before falling on a technical downhill. Training in the last few days on the race course here in Cogne has been very good. Paul is feeling great and is ready to give it his best, and on a fast course like this anything can happen.

Unfortunately the night before yesterday Ben suddenly came down sick. Of all things, he has been diagnosed with Chicken Pox. He has spent most of the last 48 hours in bed, apart from 2-3 hours hanging around the hospital in Aosta. The sprint for tomorrow is out of course, and also the 15km freestyle World Cup next Wednesday. Obviously this is a major setback for Ben, who was in possibly the best shape of his life. Needless to say he is not a very happy but very itchy camper. All we can hope for now is a swift recovery so that he may have some chance for Ramsau.

Next report after the sprint tomorrow.

December 2 - The Campaign Begins

The Australian World Cup Team advance party arrived in Switzerland on November 23. We (Ben Derrick and Finn Marsland) took up residence in an apartment in Fiesch, and Paul Murray joined us only two days ago. Luckily the snow arrived just before us and we could ski from day one.

This team has a pretty specific goal - to get a skier qualified for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Paul and Ben will ski World Cup races over the next month with top half of the field as the target. It a big challenge for these guys but both have been making incredible gains in training since the Australian season and are hitting the European snow in good shape.

Special starts in World Cup distance events were sought for Camille Melvey and Cameron Morton, but this was unsuccessful and they will have to do it the hard way. Cameron is qualified for World Cup sprints, however for the next month he will be hitting the World Cup Biathlon schedule instead. Camille Melvey has been in Scandinavia at the end of October with coach Allison McArdle, pursuing an intense racing schedule to try and qualify for World Cup. Reports on Camille's progress and other NSW team reports will be posted here from time to time. Report 1 from November 12 is now up. Camille has raced four times since her opening races in Finland - at Bruksvallarna and Idre in Sweden - and we are awaiting reports from these last races.

Swiss Cup, Goms, December 1-2
A minor setback going into the first race for Ben. Soon after arriving we discovered it was a classic race - the Swiss Ski Federation changed it a month ago without us knowing. Ben was keen on a good skating race for confidence before the World Cup debut next week, but there was nothing we could except change the goal from top 10 in a skating race to top 30 in a classic (estimating roughly from Swiss Champs last year). The first race of the season is usually tough, and this was no exception. Ben scrambled for the first 5km and was back in the mid 30's, but then on the second lap he started to get his technique together, and despite a fall moved up to 29th place at the finish. No prizes for 29th place and only average FIS points but Ben came out of it feeling a lot better than he thought he would.

10km Classic
1  29:35.3  Beat Koch  SUI
2  29:44.7  Christian Stolz  SUI
3  30:39.9  Dominik Berchtold  SUI
4  30:41.9  David Romer  SUI
5  30:56.9  Toni Dinkel  SUI
29 32:45.8  Ben Derrick  AUS - 102.06 FIS POINTS
114 skiers in start

Next to the 1.3km freestyle sprint the next day. Lets start with an excerpt from BBD's email to brother Chris:

Not a good month for Australian sport. First the cricket and we draw with a second rate club side from a sheep loving country from somewhere in the south pacific. Then the other football codes get humiliated by a bunch of inbreds, somehow we manange to get beaten in the Davis Cup at home on grass with Pat and Leyton, the Socceroos lose.......again, and then big Paul Murray has a tumble on the tricky down in his first international this season and goes from 9th (and a place in the final) to 26th, which incidently is one place (and 2 sec) behind BD who didn't fall but was happy to point out afterwards that .... he is Australia's no. 1 sprinter again......or for the first time actually, which will last for exactly one week until the next world cup where he will be soundly beaten - unless he decides to retire and never sprint again, thus going out as #1.

Paul's quote after the race:

I didn't pay $5000 and sit on a plane for 30 @#$%$# hrs just to end up on my arse on the snow.

So a bugger for Paul not to make the final, but it was certainly promising that he was up there mixing it with the top Swiss skiers having stepped off the plane 2 days before. As for Ben, he looked as though he could keep going the same speed for 15 or 30km and that is what we are hoping for in Brusson and Ramsau in the upcoming weeks. No good points for anyone here.

1.3km Sprint Freestyle (Qualifying Position)
1  2:48.71  Christoph Eigenmann  SUI (1)
2  2:51.33  Peter Von Allmen  SUI (2)
3  2:59.13  Sven Wenger  SUI (7)
4  2:57.10  Corsin Rauch  SUI (4)
5  2:53.39  Dominik Walpen  SUI (3)
25 3:10.52  Ben Derrick  AUS
26 3:12.73  Paul Murray  AUS
41 skiers in start

So now we are waiting for confirmation of snow in Cogne before we leave Switzerland. The OPA Continental Cup in Campra looks like it will be moved to the Goms so maybe we will see Camille and Allison here in the next few days. Hopefully now that we are settling in over here we will get some more regular reports happening, possibly some pics as well.

Ben Derrick and Paul Murray
Goms Switzerland, December 2001

Paul Murray Training in Goms
December 2001

Paul Murray Starting World Cup
Cogne, Italy, December 2001

Ben Sim in Continental Cup Duathlon
Ramsau Austria, December 2001

Brian Keeble, Katie Calder, and Allison McArdle
Ramsau, Austria, December 2001

Mockie blocks out the Sprint Final with his big head
Salzburg, Austria, December 2001

Start of World Cup Sprint
Salzburg, Austria, December 2001

Rhiannon Palmer training without poles
Davos, Switzerland, January 2002 

World Cup Sprint Semi-final Finish
Val Di Fiemme, Italy, January 2002

Andrew Wynd in OPA U23 Championship
Val di Fiemme, Italy, February 2002



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