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2003 World Championships
Val di Fiemme, Italy, February 18 - March 1
Back to 2002/2003 Team Reports

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Australian Reports
Updates: Feb 17 - Feb 20 - Feb 21 - Feb 23 - Feb 25 - Feb 28 - Images


The Australian Team

Athletes - Paul Murray, Ben Sim, Esther Bottomley, Katherine Calder, Andrew Mock, Duane Butcher
Team Manager - Brian Keeble
Coaches - Finn Marsland, Nick Almoukov
Wax Technician - Nicolo Corradini (Italy)
Assistants - Andrew Circosta, Matt O'Rourke, Robert Curtis


The Competition Schedule

Dates/Events

Australian Competitors

Reports/Links

February 18
Women 15km Classic Mass Start

None

Race Report

February 19
Men 30km Classic Mass Start

None

Race Report

February 20
Women 10km Classic

None

Race Report

February 21
Men 15km Classic

Paul Murray
Ben Sim
Andrew Mock

Race Report

February 22
Women 5km/5km Duathlon

None

Race Report

February 23
Men 10km/10km Duathlon

None

Race Report

February 24
Women 4 by 5km Relay

None

Race Report

February 25
Men 4 by 10km Relay

None

Race Report

February 26
Women Sprint Freestyle
Men Sprint Freestyle

Esther Bottomley
Katherine Calder
Paul Murray
Duane Butcher

Race Report

February 28
Women 30km Freestyle

None

Race Report

March 1
Men 50km Freestyle

None

Race Report

General News

February 17 Update

With six competitors entered this is the largest Australian Team at the World Championships since 1997 in Trondheim in Norway, however only a few events are to be contested by the team members. At the last minute Duane Butcher and Andrew Mock were added to the team to compete in one event each for experience. Both skiers had recorded FIS point results just outside the standard set by the Skiing Australian Cross Country committee. Of the other 4 skiers already qualified - Paul Murray, Ben Sim, KT Calder, and Esther Bottomley - only Paul Murray looks likely to compete in more than one event. He flies down to Italy from Sweden tomorrow, and will race the 15km classic as a lead-up to his main event the sprint. Esther will concentrate only on the sprint, skiing a time trial on the sprint course as part of her preparation. Ben Sim also arrives tomorrow with coach Nick Almoukov, and will compete in the 15km classic before heading home to Australia to go back to school. KT was originally going to be competing in the 10km classic, however now after a couple of weeks illness she is going for the sprint in order to give herself more time to recover and try to find form. Mocky was also ill recently, but is feeling better and better each day and will take on the 15km classic along with Paul and Ben. Duane is aiming for the sprint, though he seems to be a bit overdone and he will do a time trial on the 1.5km course later in the week before a final decision will be made if he is ready to race.

So while it has not been the ideal preparation for some members of the team, if Paul, Ben, and Esther can reproduce their form of recent weeks then some good results can be achieved. Our new wax technician Nicolo Corradini is from Castello and has all the local wax tips, and with a good support team including some of the Australian skiers who didn't qualify for the championships hopefully the competitors will have good skis. This website will be updated regularly througout the championships with the Australian team perspective, however the links at the top of this page will likely be quicker with results and event summaries. Stay tuned for all the action from Val di Fiemme 2003.

February 20 Update

Lots of excitement for the Australian team this evening as the entire team was called up for blood screening, including those who had been registered as racers in case they qualified at the last minute but now are here just assisting. It might have been easier if the officials had contacted us earlier in the afternoon, but by the time the message got through the team was scattered all up and down the valley doing various activities (including checking emails at the library, swimming, Paul Murray visiting his mum, and Rob Curtis unknown as he is staying up in Predazzo and will have to be notified tomorrow). Esther had been tested yesterday because she was on the start list for the 10km classic today, but she didn't start because she is saving up all her surplus energy for the sprint (not the full story but it will do for the moment). Results of the test were not available yet, (actually there was not that much information available at all ), but hopefully no-one follows in the footsteps of Varis from the opening race. The start list for tomorrow's 15km is out, and Ben Sim has the first start after the red group, which has chosen to go up the front because the track will likely be harder and faster early on. Grip waxing could be interesting, because the start is not until 11:15 and parts of the track in the sun really start to change after midday. Communication with the wax-man Nicolo Corradini has been a little tricky, and it has been hard to get him to consider covered klister as an alternative to stick that seems to work fine up until about 11:30. Could be an interesting morning tomorrow before the race.

Other fun (from the coaches perspective, athlete's perspective maybe after tomorrow) has include arguing with the race officials about more parking passes and coaching bibs. Finally yesterday the Canadian team (our co-habitants of Hotel Negritella) were kind enough to donate us a spare parking pass, and today after much discussion we were grudgingly given another coaching bib. Somehow things never seem to be easy for the small countries.

February 21 Update

The first race down for the Australians and considering everything it was not too bad. Preparation for each of the Australians competing was not ideal; Paul only arriving a couple of days before and aiming mainly for the sprint; Ben peaking two weeks earlier for the World Junior Championships and now trying to hold onto that form, and Mocky coming off a bout of bronchitis only a week or so ago. However Nicolo finally came around on the idea of covered klister and everyone seemed to have good skis. The results are listed on the Race Report section, and here are a few words from the athletes:

Paul: Today's result was a bit disappointing, I had a good classic race recently in Sweden and I was hoping for much better here. I think competing at 900m after basically skiing at sea-level in Sweden was tough but I think I am in good shape and I have 5 days till the next race to rest and get it together, so I am looking forward to the sprint. Also great to have mum in the crowd waving the ozzy flag.

Simbo: Standing at a start gate with a camera 20cm away and a 20m square TV screen of my face is not something that I have experienced 15 seconds before a ski race. This made my nerves go from 20 to 70% but hey what do you expect at the senior World Championships. I possibly went out a little hard and felt the effects in the second lap. Into the third lap and I started to get my pace back, the air temp of 4 degrees felt like 25 or more made me feel like home and I finished hard. Not a bad first experience.

Mocky: It was the best of days, it was the worst of days... mmm... maybe I'll start again. I was pretty excited when I first "scammed" a start in the World Champs 15km classic. 5km into today's race and it didn't seem like such a great deal anymore. I was hurting. In fact I was hurting like a compulsive swallower in a drawing pin factory. The 5km race loop made the Perisher 5km loop look like a speedway track. After running on adrenaline alone for the first km's (a packed grandstand and 9 TV networks will do that) the lactic began to take hold at the start of the 2nd lap. This next lap was one hell of a mental battle, constantly trying to push the pace while knowing full well there was another lap waiting to hurt me. By the last lap most of the hard work was done and it was just a matter of savouring the atmosphere safe in the knowledge that I was skiing each hill for the last time. Come the finish straight and my old friend adrenaline kicked in again and there we have it - my first World Champs over and done with. (Sounds pretty simple when put like that!) In all, an amazing experience and one that I'm not going to forget in a hurry. The chance to represent Australia at the highest level is something that I feel extremely fortunate to have been given. Here's hoping that my performance today went some small way towards vindicating the faith that was placed in me.

Yep Mocky you played hard done good. Congratulations to all the guys today for gutsy performances on a tough track. With all this young talent getting experience this year the next World Champs in 2005 are looking promising.

February 23 Update (Paul Murray Special)

The clear blues skies, fast tracks, tough hills, crazy Russian drivers and shifty Italian blokes trying to knock off the current world and Olympic champs skis(while the poor guy is in the middle of testing).And great racing. That pretty much sums up the first week of the world champs here in Val Di Fiemme.

I arrived here the last of the team on the 18th. A 12 hr travel time was a little longer than expected but I was sure happy to see our trusty coach at the accreditation place when my bus pulled in. The hotel is the usual, TV, Eurosport, good food, including chocolate croissants at breakfast(I had 6 this morning) and we are relatively close to the tracks. With some athletes choosing to view the races live in the stadium and the rest choosing to enjoy the English commentary Eurosport from our old mate David Goldstrom, the racing has been nothing short of very exiting.

The great thing about having a world champs in middle Europe is that every country that looks like they are close to snow is here. Even a bloke from South Africa, although we are yet to see him. Those who were privileged to see a flamboyant Russian cruising the Perisher slopes a few years back, in not much more than his jocks, will be pleased to note that he is here and racing for Israel, but he has more gear on.

Cruising the wax hut area, there is the usual party atmosphere from the power house countries after they score more hardwear. Norway has the best stereo, but Spain has a flag in their window with a very healthy looking bull. Meanwhile we have a flat soccer ball which Duane insists on kicking relentlessly against the outside wall of our cabin. The car park for the wax huts is very muddy, well really a quagmire. Thankfully no one has got bogged, however the Russians gave it their best shot yesterday and over shot the exit road, leaving their bus precariously perched on 2 wheels and looking like it was going to tip over into the ditch. "Stop" were the calls as Matt was about to drive away. " We want to watch". To our disappointment and to the organisers relief, they got it back, but only just.

20 mins earlier Duane and I had been testing skis on part of the sprint track, where Tor-Arne Hetland was also testing. Next thing we know, some shifty looking guy is running away from the area with a pair of the champs skis poking out the top of his ski bag. For those of you who are not familiar with this Norwegian man mountain, he would not be someone I would want to mess with. So after T-A.H. chases him down and calmly asks what the @#$% he is doing with his skis, the Viking commands the guy to give back the skis and get off the track. He scurries away and we havn't heard anything since.

So much for security on the track. The day before, Finn had been heatedly asked to leave the track as he didn't have the correct coaches bib on. Yesterday arvo, there are punters all over the supposed closed track and no security within a bulls roar.

From now on we have someone with our skis and gear while we are testing. I have too many pairs of Mark and Paul Gray's fast skis to risk loosing them. If you guys read this, Mark, your classic skies were one of the fastest on the track for the 15km. I run up the back of a Swede, 2 Finns and Botvinov on downhills after giving all of them a head start. Can I keep them? And Paul, those Ramsau skating skis are cranking.

So now the teams focus shifts to the sprint. With 4 runners in this event, it will be great to see so many ozzies on the track. From a personal point of view it is a chance to redeem myself after an uninspiring performance a few days ago. Time will tell if I am over the altitude and back to my best form after 2 flat weeks.

Illness has hit many teams here with the most notable to suffer the Norwegians and Italians.(People think its funny , but it's really hot and runny) I hope Zorzi wins the sprint otherwise the whole Italian team will be sacked if the news paper reports are anything to go by.

So on the eve of the second week of these championships we look forward to producing the results that we know we are capable of as a team, and hope and pray for the weather and snow to stay as they are. An ozzy spectator presence is certainly here with some Melbournites plus my mum and her trusty travel partner, Sandy Coleman. (I think they almost make as much noise as 10 Norwegian fans when a ozzy goes past.

Ciao, Paul.

February 25 Update

The final race for the Australians at these Championships is tomorrow, and unfortunately the most experienced skier here on the team is not 100% healthy. Paul has been feeling borderline the last two days, and this evening went to bed straight after dinner having taken a turn for the worse - headache, sore throat, basically feeling crap. He even skipped dessert. But all hope is not given up yet. Duane was similar a couple of days ago, and has come good. A good nights sleep can change everything, and a slight cold is perhaps not as crucial for a 3 minute sprint as for the longer distances. Sound like a coach grasping at straws? Maybe, but one thing is certain: If Paul is healthy enough to step up to that start line tomorrow he will give it 100%. Perhaps only Paul Gray is the only other Australian skier of recent times who has been able to push themselves so hard.

The other 3 skiers competing tomorrow all seem a little nervous. It is the first race at this level for Esther, KT and Duane, and for the last two their best chance to go under 100 FIS points. Duane in particular is keen to clear this barrier, as it would open up the door to compete in the Sprint World Cups in Norway and Sweden coming up in March. Everybody tested all their skis today, and have narrowed it down to one or two pairs each. Most of the glide wax is also finalised, with the last outer layer to be tested again 30 minutes before the start. One thing all the team needs tomorrow is fast skis.

The start-lists are ready, with Esther and KT being seeded 47th and 49th out of 58 women, and Paul and Duane 52nd and 62nd out of 77 men. Top 16 go through the finals, but that is perhaps a bit much to hope for this time around. Because the race is in the afternoon tomorrow, and the finals into the evening, it may take another day before a post-race report hits this site. However for those keen enough, the FIS website's live coverage will give you all the qualifying times the moment the skiers cross the line. Set your alarms for 3pm central Europe time.

February 28 Update

Sorry for the delay, it has been a busy couple of days since the sprint. Unfortunately it was not the best day for the Australians at these World Championships. A lot of hope rested on Paul Murray's performance in the sprint, but it was not to be his day. Battling a cold Paul did his best, but soon into the race he knew his body was not responding, and he ended up in 59th place 21 seconds (the realistic goal was under 10s) behind the fastest qualifier Zorzi from Italy. Duane Butcher too was lacking a little spark, and finished 6 seconds behind Paul in 65th place, out of 75 starters. In the women's sprint Esther Bottomley had a more promising race, if not a better result. Esther ended up in 50th place 31 seconds behind the lead, but was sitting in about 35th place only 13 seconds off the pace after 800m. Though most of the rest of the race was downhill or relatively flat Esther's legs were then toast and she lost of lot of time to the finish. KT Calder unfortunately had a race well below her best, finishing 53rd, 39 seconds off the time set by Bjoergen of Norway. KT's illness after the Uni Games left her always coming from behind for this competition, and her result here doesn't do credit for the athlete she is and how fast she can ski.

So that's it for the Val di Fiemme 2003, and for the season for most of the Australians in Europe. Ben Sim is already home, and of the others only Paul Murray and Duane Butcher will stay on, in Sweden and Norway respectively. Paul was considering the Norwegian World Cup sprints coming up in the next two weeks, but with this illness now will likely rest up and aim for the Swedish World Cup sprint in Borlange on March 20 instead.

While overall the results at these competitions have been a little below expectations, for all but Paul it was their first experience at a senior World Championships. Hopefully each of the athletes can take away something positive and come back stronger next season and for 2005. Special thanks to Brian Keeble, Nick Almoukov, Andrew Circosta, Matt O'Rourke, and Nicolo Corradini for their assistance during the past two weeks. Cherio until next time. (Some more race reports maybe to come in the next few days).


Images from the 2003 World Championships


Duane Butcher in Sprint


KT Calder in Sprint


Esther Bottomley in Sprint


Paul Murray in 15km classic


Ben Sim in 15km classic


Andrew Mock in 15km classic


Paul Murray following Lars Flora from the USA


Andrew Mock closing on Esben Thomsen from Denmark


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