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Australian Team Reports 2003/2004
(Hit "Refresh" for Latest Update)
Dec 1 - Aussies in Sprints
Dec 14 - Bottomley to make WC Debut
Dec 16 - The Only Way Is Up
Dec 21 - OPA CC#1
Dec 29 - More Races
Jan 4 - Bernau... Im Schwarzwald
Jan 8 - Relay Success plus Slovak Races
Jan 10 - Klosters COC
Jan 11 - Åsarnaspelen
Jan 14 - The Oberstdorf Sprint Debacle
Jan 18 - A Weekend of Many Races
Jan 21 - The Swiss Championships Begin
Jan 22 - Calder Under 100 At Last!
Jan 25 - On The Podium
Jan 30 - Bottomley Cranks in Pontresina
Feb 1 - BBD 2nd in Konig Ludwig Lauf
World Junior Championship Special
Feb 8 - Calder On The Podium Again
Feb 16 - Some Norwegian Perspective
Feb 21 - Murray 38th in World Cup
Feb 24 - Trondheim Powder Skiing
Feb 26 - Drammen 40,000, Murray 70
Feb 28 - A Tough Day In Holmenkollen
Mar 1 - Murray Bounces Back!
Mar 6 - Back On The Rollercoaster
Mar 14 - World Cup Finale
Mar 15 - Melvey Medals at Masters
Mar 24 - Brumley Charges Home
Mar 26 - Murray In The Finals Again
April 6 - Sweden Cup Finals - End of Reports

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Paul Murray Interview
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Australian Team Reports 2003/2004

April 6 - Sweden Cup Finals - End of Reports

On the weekend of April 3/4 Paul Murray finished off his racing season with some more solid results at the Sweden Cup finals in Ostersund in Sweden. In the 10km freestyle event on Saturday April 3 Paul finished in 44th place, just over 3 minutes behind an in-form Anders Sodergren (Sodergren was 17 seconds ahead of overall World Cup #2 Matthias Fredriksson), with FIS points of about 96 - his second under 100 in distance races this winter. In the freestyle sprint on Sunday April 4 Paul qualified for the finals in 12th place, ending up 11th after missing out on a semi-final spot by less than a metre. The A-final was won by the sprint World Cup champion Tobias Fredriksson. For a while it looked as though the sprint FIS points might have been his best of the season, however a race penalty of 50 saw Paul's points spring out to about 85. A tough pill when a field like this containing skiers like Fredriksson, Brink, and Hogberg normally has a penalty of 15 - unfortunately one un-registered skier qualified in the top 5 while Fredriksson and Hogberg qualified were just outside. With the tightness of sprint racing these days perhaps FIS should start looking at the top 10 when calculating the penalty.

With this last sprint result Paul finished 10th overall in the Folksam Sprint Cup, an impressive achievement in a nation with so many top World Cup sprinters - Sweden has 5 men in the top 10 of the Sprint World Cup rankings, and 14 men who scored Sprint World Cup points this season.

End of Reports
While there are still a few Australian Team members left in Europe (Paul Murray in Sweden, Duane Butcher in Norway, Ben Sim in Russia), this is the end of the 2003/2004 team reports. If anything remarkable happens overseas in the next few months it will be reported in the Autumn News 2004 section of this website. Thanks for the feedback from everyone following the team exploits throughout the season, though reports have been sporadic at times there has certainly been a lot of good news to report on. Until next time...

March 26 - Murray In The Finals Again

Yesterday Paul Murray made another Sprint final in Sweden, this time his biggest final to date - the Swedish Sprint Championships. In the 1km freestyle event in Skelleftea on March 25 Paul qualified in 16th position from the field of 52 starters, 8.35 seconds behind the fastest qualifier Fredrik Bystrom. All the top Swedish sprinters were there, including 6 World Cup winners and place-getters (Fredriksson, Lind, Mikael Ostberg, Larsson, Hogberg and Brink), 3 World Cup finalists, and the current World Junior Champion.

In the 1/4 final Paul had tough opposition from Bystrom, Brink, and Fredrik Ostberg, but he gave it a red hot go. In 2nd place out of the start Paul fell back to 4th, but then went for it over the last uphill. Moving up into 2nd place he caught his ski-tip in soft snow, and had to settle for 4th and hence 16th place overall because of his qualifying position. All in all a great result for Paul and his club Falun-Borlange who had 5 skiers in the finals - which were also televised live on Swedish TV. Now there is only one more FIS sprint race left for Paul this season, the Sweden Cup final in Ostersund on April 4.

March 24 - Brumley Charges Home

On March 20 Clare-Louise Brumley became the sixth Australian skier to go under 100 FIS points this season and qualify for the 2005 World Championships. Clare-Louise finished 7th in the Swiss Cup 5km classic competition in Le Marchairuz with FIS points of 93.87, 1:33 behind the winner Swiss World Cup skier Laurence Rochat and only 32 seconds off the podium. James Rickard also scored his best FIS points of the season, 133.58 points finishing 44th in the men's 10km classic. In difficult waxing conditions the Aussie pair apparently jagged the wax and were both satisfied with their performances.

In the freestyle pursuit competition the next day James kept his 44th place, however Clare-Louise did not finish for reasons yet unknown. Both skiers have now packed up their skis for the season and are in transit on the way home to Australia.

March 15 - Melvey Medals at Masters

The 2004 Masters World Cup took place at Lillehammer in Norway between 29th February and 6th March 2004. A large Australian team was on site, producing some impressive results. Camille Melvey lead the charge with two bronze medals in the 35-40 age class. A brief report from Warren Feakes is now up in the Master's section of this site - a more detailed report on the 2004 Masters will appear in the next edition of Australian XC News.

March 14 - World Cup Finale

The 2003/2004 World Cup season finished up this weekend with competitions on the 2006 Winter Olympic tracks in Pragelato in Italy. Paul Murray was only Australian cross country skier there, finishing 75th in the men's freestyle sprint on March 12. Paul had hoped for a good race to finish up the World Cup season, however his illness from a week ago combined with a tough course at altitude meant that it was always going to be a hard task. "I was tired and had no spark," said Paul from Pragelato, where he stayed on for a few days to check out the rest of the tracks for 2005. "Now I need to take a rest". Paul was 11.7 seconds behind the fastest qualifier, Loris Frasnelli from Italy. The final was won by Freddy Schweinbacher from Italy, his first World Cup win, while in the women's final Marit Bjoergen won her 7th straight sprint World Cup.

Yesterday Sabina Valbusa from Italy won the women's 15km freestyle event. Today the men's 30km freestyle was won by Christian Hoffmann of Austria.

March 6 - Back On The Rollercoaster

Paul Murray's rollercoaster ride this season has continued with a 79th place in the Lahti World Cup in Finland on March 5, after coming down with a cold the night before. Paul was 10.4 seconds behind the fastest qualifier Harvard Bjerkeli from Norway, who he had qualified ahead of in Sweden Cup only 6 days before. "My legs had so much lactate at the top of the first hill that I nearly fell over," said Paul from Lahti, where he was assisted by Finnish coach Marko Passila who waxed for the Australian team in Lahti in 2001. The sprint final was won by Tobias Fredriksson from Sweden ahead of team-mates Mikael Ostberg and Joergen Brink. Bjerkeli finished 4th.

While Paul's inconsistancy this season has been frustrating, the best news has been that when he has been on fire he has produced a couple of really world class results. That he now refers to World Cup results that are 10-12 seconds off the pace as disappointing is a mark of the steps Paul has made and the expectations he has of himself.

Paul's plans to ski the 90km Vasaloppet in Sweden this Sunday March 7 for his club Falun-Borlange are now on hold. If he is able to get past this cold quickly he will have one last chance to perform on World Cup in the season finale in Pragelato in Italy on March 12.

March 1 - Murray Bounces Back

Only two days after a disappointing World Cup sprint in Drammen Paul Murray has bounced back with the best race of his life in the Swedish Cup in Landvetter on February 28. Paul finished 4th in the qualifying time trial, ahead of Drammen World Cup winner Harvard Bjerkeli from Norway and Drammen and Trondheim WC finalist Anders Högberg from Sweden. Paul was just 4 seconds behind the fastest qualifier Mikael Östberg of Sweden, with FIS points of about 55 despite a higher race penalty due to Paul finishing in the top 5. A surprised speaker announced over the mike - and he's from ..... Australia? Skiing for Falun Borlänge ski club. The other Australian skiers Tim Retchford and Duane Butcher missed out on the finals, finishing 12 and 14 secs back.

In the quarter-final Paul cranked up the last hill to move from 4th to 2nd and qualify for the semi-final alongside Bjerkeli. His semi- final was then with Bjerkeli, Östberg, and Peter Eden, who qualified 12th in the Stockholm World Cup. As they hit the hill for the last time Eden was left behind, with Paul trying to come over the top of Bjerkeli in the finish straight and just missing out by a meter. The A-final was won then by Östberg ahead of Bjerkeli and Högberg, with Svartadal from Norway (winner of the Stockholm WC) coming in 4th. In the B-final Paul was toast and got boxed in, but crossed the line for an extremely satisfying 8th place. Special thanks to Tim who waxed Paul's skis in between each heat.

On Sunday the Swedish Sprint Cup continued with a 1.1km classic sprint in Helsingborg right down the south of Sweden. As it was totally flat all skiers double-poled on skating skis. In the time trial tired Paul Murray skied another solid race to qualify 12th 6 seconds back. Tim Retchford had a disapointing race to be 20 seconds behind in his last race for the season, but was pretty happy with his performances over the last few months. Duane Butcher didnt start. In his quarter-final Paul was knocked out by just a metre, but was still pretty satisfied with his weekend's work. Anders Högberg went on to win the final ahead of Micke Östberg .

Tim is now on his way back to Australia via the USA, Duane has returned to Norway, while Paul is having a few days off after spending 38 hrs in the car the last week. With Paul in such great form it has been decided that he will fly to Lahti next week for the second last sprint World Cup on Friday March 5. After that he plans to ski the 90km Vasaloppet in Sweden on Sunday.

February 28 - A Tough Day In Holmenkollen

The Holmenkollen 50km is the toughest race on the World Cup circuit, and it took its toll today on Ben Derrick. Struggling with cramps for the last 15km of the race BD finished in 70th place from the field of 78 starters, about 15% behind the winner Rene Sommerfeldt from Germany. BD started conservatively, but didn't have the same form he has shown over the last two months and combined with slightly slow skis was unable to jump on the back of skiers as they came past. It was only towards the end of the second 16km loop that he felt he was able to really start to push, but then the cramps started to settle in, so much so that in the last 10km he was only just able to keep skiing. BD was very disappointed to put in this performance in his only World Cup and also his last race of the season, as he returns to Australia in a couple of days.

In the next report, Paul Murray had the race of his life today in a Sweden Cup sprint near Gothenburg, details to come in the next day or so.

February 26 - Drammen 40,000, Murray 70

Not a good day today for Paul Murray, finishing 70th in the Sprint World Cup in Drammen. Normally this 1200m classic course would have suited Paul, however he felt as flat as a tack and was very disappointed to finish 12 seconds behind the fastest qualifier Harvaad Bjerkeli from Norway. Whether this is a real drop in form now or maybe a result of sitting in the car for 8 hours yesterday is uncertain, though he will have the chance to find out this weekend with two Swedish Cup sprint races coming up in Gothenburg and Helsingborg.

Drammen was probably the best organised World Cup that the Australian team has been to in recent years. An estimated 40,000 spectators were packed around the course in the centre of town, which was in perfect condition complete with a couple of massive TV screens. An incredible event to witness and be a part of. Now the action switches to Holmenkollen 45 minutes away for the 30km and 50km events on Saturday February 28, where up to 60,000 spectators are expected.

February 24 - Trondheim Powder Skiing

Paul Murray finished 64th today in the Sprint World Cup in Trondheim in Norway, in conditions that were far from ideal. A broken grooming machine meant that the 1.2km course in the Trondheim town centre wasn't prepared until the morning of the race, creating a track that quickly turned to sugar. Combined with dumping snow during the qualification, the result was a very tough race in snow that was up to 15cm deep round most of the course, unfortunately conditions which did not suit Paul at all. Not strong enough to power through the powder, Paul was toast half way through the race and finished 18 seconds back from the fastest qualifier, Tor-Arne Hetland from Norway. Other skiers suffered as well - Dahl from Norway, Switzerland's Von Allmen, and Koos from the USA who were 2nd, 17th and 21st in Stockholm finished 61st, 70th and 73rd respectively.

In the men's final Janus Krezeluk from Poland took his country's first ever World Cup gold medal, while Marit Bjoergen from Norway won the women's final. The World Cup circus now travels south for another Sprint World Cup in Drammen near Oslo in only two days time.

Derrick Holds Form in Skinnarloppet
Ben Derrick finished in 12th place in the 45km classic Skinnarloppet in Malung in Sweden on February 22. In his last hit out before the 50km World Cup in Holmenkollen BD finished strongly, moving up from 25th in the last 15km and dragging a pack of 10 skiers for most of the last 10km. His prize for 12th place - a fishing rod. The race was won by the 2003 Vasloppet winner, Oskar Svard from Sweden. Tim Retchford also started the Skinnarloppet, however didn't feel good and pulled out after 25km to try and save something for the Swedish Cup sprints this weekend.

February 21 - Murray 38th in World Cup

Paul Murray achieved the best international result of his career on Wednesday February 18 with a flying 38th place in the Sprint World Cup in Stockholm. The 1.1km classic sprint event was held around the King's Castle in the "old town" section of Stockholm. Paul was only half a second from scoring World Cup points and 2 seconds from qualifying for the final 16, and claimed the scalps of many top World Cup skiers from the starting field of 63.

The result is also one of Australia's best World Cup placings. Anthony Evans best World Cup result was 37th in Ramsau in 1998, though he also has a 36th place from the 1997 World Championship in Trondheim and 34th, 37th and 38th places from the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville amongst his best results on the world stage. Chris Heberle holds Australia's best Winter Olympic result of 33rd from 1988 in Calgary.

Stockholm was also KT Calder's first and only World Cup this season, and she was hoping to continue the good classic sprinting form shown less than two weeks ago in Switzerland. Unfortunately KT's skis were overwaxed, and while she had great grip up the two climbs her glide left much to be desired. With 2/3 of the course flat enough to double-pole this was a big disadvantage, and KT finished 50th out of 51 starters. Now on the way back to Australia, KT was very disappointed with this last result but happy with the great step forward she has made this season in Europe.

Paul was extremely happy with his result, although he was beaten by 0.1 of a second by Martin Larsson - his flat-mate in Borlange in Sweden for the last 5 months. His FIS points were 58, the best since the penalty factor for sprints was increased at the start of last season. Hopefully Paul can follow this result up now with good results in the two sprint World Cups coming up next week in Norway and move up significantly on the world ranking list.

Coming up next: The other two Australian team-members in Sweden at the moment Ben Derrick and Tim Retchford are getting ready for the 42km Skinnarloppet tomorrow. Paul heads to Norway tomorrow night for the freestyle sprint in Trondheim on Tuesday and another classic sprint in Drammen on Thursday. Ben Derrick will make his season World Cup debut next Saturday in the 50km freestyle in Holmenkollen - possibly the most famous World Cup event on the circuit. The same weekend Tim Retchford will be competing in Sweden Cup sprint, where he will be joined by Duane Butcher coming across from Norway.

February 16 - Some Norwegian Perspective

For a change of scenery Ben Derrick and KT Calder headed north from middle Europe for a Scandinavian Cup race near Trondheim in Norway. Coach Finn Marsland made the long trip in the car with the equipment (via the overnight ferry from Kiel to Goteborg) while the athletes flew in to Oslo. At Trondheim they were joined by Ben Sim and Nick Almoukov, fresh from the World Junior Championships a week ago, and also Camille Melvey, who is in Norway in preparation for the World Masters Cup coming up soon in Lillehammer.

Scandinavian Cup, Hommelvik, Norway, February 14-15
If ever in good form and you want to be put back in your place, head for a combined Norwegian/Scandinavian Cup classic race. Over 700 skiers were entered in each day of competition in Hommelvik, with the open men's class including a massive 86 skiers with average FIS points under 100 points. KT Calder had the best result of the team in the classic races on Saturday February 14, finishing 31st in the women's 5km event 1:41 behind the winner Marit Roadseth from Norway. Camille Melvey finished 50th 3:22 off the pace. Ben Derrick had this to say about the men's 10km classic:

"You know you're in Norway when you have a reasonably good race and you don't make the top 100."

BD and Ben Sim finished 102nd and 115th in the open men's class, both thinking that they didn't ski too badly. Nick Almoukov signed the list in 134th place. The field was smoked by 43 seconds by Eldar Roenning from Norway.

After a hard night considering the merits of travelling north, everybody was keen to turn things around in the freestyle races on Sunday. Luckily no-one was disappointed. KT Calder finished 26th in the 10km skate, 2:31 behind Uni Odegard from Norway, and even though Odegard and 2nd placed Veum were about 47 seconds off the front of the field KT scored about 100 point nothing FIS points, her second best distance points of the season. Camille Melvey was another 3 minutes behind KT in 47th place.

In the open men's 15km Ben Derrick came out flying and was leading the field at the 6.5km mark after 75 skiers had been through. After all 130 starters had been past BD was in 18th. Ben Sim was down in the 60s on the first lap, but he was just coming up to speed. On the second lap BD started to tire, and at the finish ended up 29th, but only 1:36 behind the winner Gaustad from Norway. Ben Sim made up time towards the end and finished 41st, 15 seconds behind BD. Both skiers scored easily their best FIS points of the season, to be confirmed but likely about 62 and 68 points respectively. Well earned points in a very tough field. Nick Almoukov finished 120th, 6:06 behind the winner.

Intercontinental U23 Championships, Soldier Hollow USA, February 11-15
Only a very brief report here, Nick Grimmer finished 26th in the freestyle sprint at the unofficial U23 world championships in Soldier Hollow in the USA. This quote from Nick:

"The race today was good and bad, I ended up signing the list 26th out of 26 which was a bit disappointing, though I was only .19secs off 25th. It wasn't all bad though, I felt solid during the race and though it wasn't anything fantastic I feel I could do better if I was in good form."

Nick's preparation for the event was disrupted due to illness in the week before. The men's sprint final was won by Drew Goldsack from Canada, the women's final by Christina Kelder from Italy.

Coming up next, the Stockholm World Cup Sprint on February 18, with Paul Murray and KT Calder set to compete on the 1.2km classic sprint course around the King's Castle in the centre of Stockholm.

February 8 - Calder On The Podium Again

Swiss Cup, Gibswil, February 7-8
KT Calder kept her run of good form going with a third place in the classic sprint at the Swiss Cup competitions at Gibswil near Zurich on Saturday February 7. KT qualified third in the time trial with a smoking performance only 1.3 seconds off the pace behind Switzerland's top 2 sprinters Seraina Mischol and Andrea Huber, scoring personal best sprint FIS points of 97 despite a bad race penalty. Ben Derrick and Tim Retchford qualified 9th and 15th in the time trial, however were knocked out in the quarter finals. No other Australians started in the sprint.

KT cruised through the quarter and semi finals to bring up a head to head match with Mischol, Huber, and Seraina Boner. Coming from behind after a bit of jostling at the start KT blew past Huber on the longest uphill and almost bridged the gap to Mischol. Going into the final 200m KT looked to have 2nd place in the bag with a 30m lead over Huber, however Huber came flying home to mow down KT with only 20m to spare. Still not a bad day - on the podium, in the money again, and under 100 FIS points for the first time in a sprint. The points could have been even better except for KT's own points messing with the penalty - she scored only 6.8 race points and Mischol and Huber have points of 57 and 62.

Waxing conditions for the classic distance races on Sunday February 8 were very tricky. Icy tracks overnight were covered with 2cm of fresh snow, which could be pushed aside with a hand to reveal the ice underneath but stayed put when skied on. Conditions changed steadily through the races until during the men's race it was back to pretty much ice again. Ben Derrick had probably the best grip for the Australians, and produced a solid 10th place in the 15km classic with FIS points of about 83, possibly his best points in a classic race. Despite poor grip KT Calder and Clare-Louise Brumley showed they are both in great shape, finishing 9th and 12th in the 7.5km classic with FIS points of about 103 and 110. Tim Retchford battled on to finish in 20th place with points of about 155, while Chris Darlington had another average day finishing 24th with points of about 177. Chris will now head back to Australia next week. James Rickard also started the 15km, however had almost no grip at all and pulled out after 1 lap.

February 1 - Big Benny Derrick 2nd in Koenig Ludwig Lauf

Ben Derrick's good form this season is now starting to pay off with impressive results. On Saturday January 31 BD finished 2nd in the 50km Freestyle Koenig Ludwig Lauf in Oberammergau in Germany, behind Patrick Roelli from Switzerland. KT Calder also made the podium in the 23km Freestyle event, finishing 3rd despite a massive fall in the start. Chris Darlington finished 20th in the 50km, and Tim Retchford was 9th in the 23km.

BD broke away early from the main pack with Roelli, winner of the 2003 Transjurassienne, and Andreas Stizl from Germany. The three worked together for most of the race and consolidated their lead. BD was dropped on the big hill past Lindehof (one of King Ludwig's castles), but worked hard to regain contact. Fighting cramps in the last 10km BD entered the stadium on the back of Roelli's heels, and fought off Stitzl's finish sprint to take 2nd place. A large and very vocal Australian contingent (including former national junior team members Michael and Natasha Brennan) were on site to cheer the Australians on the podium after the race.

Four Australian men (the 3 above plus coach Finn Marsland) featured in the invitational sprint at the official opening on the Saturday night. In an amazing display of errors 3 of the 4 finished a close 3rd in their heats of 5 and narrowly missed on out qualifying for the semi-finals - Tim leading into the final straight and half tripping himself up, Finn putting his pole between his legs on the starting line, and BD having his pole stepped on in the start by Staffan Larsson of Sweden. The sprint final was won by Gianantonio Zanetal from Italy.

In the classic half of the Konig Ludwig Lauf today the winners in the 50km FIS Marathon Cup event were Stanislav Rezac from the Czech Republic (winner of the 2002 Kangaroo Hoppet) and Christina Paluselli from Italy.

The next competition for these members of the team is the Swiss Cup in Gibswil near Zurich next weekend.

January 30 - Bottomley Cranks in Pontresina

In her final competition before heading home to catch the rest of the summer Esther Bottomley pulled out her race of the season. Esther finished 6th in the International Langlauf Grand-Prix in the main street of Pontresina, behind a star-studded line-up, with personal best FIS points of about 62. KT Calder was knocked out in the quarter-finals and finished 13th, while Tim Retchford narrowly missed out on a finals berth in 17th place.

Both Australian girls finished in their qualifying position, Esther only 2.7 seconds off the pace on the fast 700m course. Four German World Cup sprinters dominated the women's A-final, with Claudia Kuenzel winning ahead of Anke Reschwamm-Schulze. Esther was knocked out of her semi-final by Kuenzel and Manuela Henkel, but then came back strong in the B-final to take 2nd place behind Switzerland's #1 ranked skier Seraina Mischol.

Tim Retchford was disappointed to miss out on the finals by 0.7 of a second, but happy with a return to form. Ben Derrick was 2 seconds further back in 19th place, and Chris Darlington another 2.5 seconds back in 20th. The men's A-final was won by Dirk Klessen of Germany ahead of Peter Von Allmen from Switzerland. The USA's Torin Koos was second across the line in his quarter-final but was disqualified for changing lanes in the last 50m.

With Esther now on a plane home, the rest of this crew is now in Oberammergau Germany for the skate races of the Konig-Ludwig -Lauf on Saturday January 31, with Ben Derrick and Chris Darlington skiing the 50km event, and KT Calder and Tim Retchford in the 23km event.

World Junior Championships
The Australian team is now on site in Stryn Norway for the 2004 World Junior Championships. Four skiers are in the team - Ben Sim, Sally Cunningham, Aimee Watson, and Ewan Watson - under the guidance of coaches Nick Almoukov and Allison McArdle. The first races are on Tuesday February 3 - the women's 15km and men's 30km classic mass start events. If there is no update on this site by next Tuesday, look to the World Junior Championships site for hopefully quick result updates.

January 25 - On The Podium

This round of the Swiss Championships finished today in Pontresina with the duathlon events (the long distance races are in March), however the breakthrough for the Australian team was yesterday in the sprint. KT Calder took third place in the women's freestyle sprint - the first time an Australian has made the podium at the Swiss Championships since Australian men won the relay in the 1992. Here's a summary from yesterday first...

Sprint Events, January 24
In the 1km time trial Esther Bottomley and KT Calder qualified for the finals in 7th and 9th place, with Clare-Louise Brumley also qualifying in 16th place but electing not to start to save her lungs for the next day - the air temperature was about -15. In the quarter-finals the Australian girls came from behind to qualify for the semi-finals, with KT finishing 2nd behind Seraina Mischol the fastest qualifier, and Esther mowing the 2nd fastest qualifer Flurina Bachmann down in the finish straight to win her heat. In the semi-finals KT came from behind again, moving up from 4th to 2nd behind Mischol and knocking out Plotzskaja from Russia awho stepped on her poles. In the other semi-final Esther got a good start and was in 2nd place up the first hill, however unfortunately she was tripped up, dropping to last place and never quite getting back in contact again. Still fuming Esther went on to finish 3rd in the B-final. In the A-final KT put in her best round of the day, almost overtaking Mischol on the first hill and staying in contact the entire race. After Bachmann fell there were only 3 contenders for the podium, and in the final straight KT was just edged out by Laurence Rochat for second place.

Ben Sim qualified 3rd in the junior men's time trial and cruised through the quarter-finals with ease, however was knocked out in the semi-finals. He ended up 6th overall after coming 2nd in the B-final. In the U18 junior girls Aimee Watson qualified 8th and ended up 8th in the B-final. In the U18 junior boys Ewan Watson finished in 27th place, with younger brother Callum signing the list in 42nd place.

To the men's 1.1km sprint, and Switzerland's #1 sprinter Peter Von Allmen qualifyed fastest and remained unbeaten all day. Ben Derrick was the fastest Australian in 26th place, 4 seconds from a top 16 finals berth and 0.6 of a second ahead of Tim Retchford in 27th place. Nick Almoukov qualified 34th and James Rickard 36th.

The presentations were held in downtown Pontresina, and though the bronze medal for the Swiss Championships was given to Bachmann, KT took the third place on the podium and the third place prize money (woohoo, money). It is unclear however who was happier - KT with her cash or d'Arcy Baxter, who despite missing all the races here due to illness picked up a pair of new skis as a spot prize.

Duathlon Events, January 25
The excitement must have been a bit much for KT yesterday, as she was feeling a bit run down today and elected not to start the duathlon. Joining her with DNS status was Clare-Louise, whose lungs were really rocked around by the sprint in cold weather, and James Rickard, who strained a stomach muscle. With Esther Bottomley becoming quite comfortable with her sprint-specialist label, this left Aimee Watson as the only Australian starter in the women's 5km-5km event. Aimee finished 7th in the under 18 class. Ewan and Callum Watson were up next in the junior boys U18 5km-5km duathlon, finishing 36th and 48th - Callum annoyed that the only skier he overtook pulled out of the race.

Finally, the men's 10km-10km duathlon, and 5 Australians on the starting grid - in ranking order Ben Sim, Ben Derrick, Chris Darlington, Tim Retchford, and Nick Almoukov. The two Bens got away to reasonable starts and avoided too much carnage, skiing most of the first 5km laps within a few metres of each other. Darlo was in amongst it mid-field, with Tim a bit further back and Nick bringing up the rear. Tim was the first casualty, pulling out early on in the second lap. Luckily there were no more (casualties). BD got away from Ben Sim before the change-over, and despite his best efforts in the change-over zone managed to stay ahead. Darlo was also pretty dodgy in the change. On the skating leg BD started to hit his straps, moving up through the field and not losing much time on the leader Burgermeister. On the last 5km lap BD only lost 30 seconds to Burgermeister, and ended up in 18th place - probably with FIS points of about 97 thanks to the duathlon/mass start penalty factor. Simbo finished just over a minute further back in 25th place with about 119 points. Darlo finished 40th with about 195 points, and Nick worked hard towards the end to move up to 46th place.

So four days of pretty tough racing at altitude comes to an end, and some well earned rest days are on the cards. Tomorrow is take 2 at seeing Lord of the Rings Part 3, as it is on for one night only (in English) at Pontresina Cinema Rex. Next race - the Pontresina main street sprint on Wednesday night.

January 22 - Calder Under 100 At Last

After many close calls over the last couple of years KT Calder went under 100 FIS points today in the Swiss Championships in Pontresina. KT finished 10th in the 10km freestyle event, with FIS points of 98.94. The result qualifies her for Sprint World Cup and for the Australian Team at the 2005 World Championships in Oberstdorf. KT started fast, in touch with the leaders early on, and was in 7th place after 5km. The last km of the race was tough going in the slow cold snow (about -12) but KT dug deep and did just enough to make it under that elusive 100 point barrier.

In her first race of the season Clare-Louise Brumley finished 16th in the 10km freestyle, with points of 132. Clare-Louise lost a lot of time early on in the race (struggling with her asthma and the cold temperatures), but came home strong in the second half of the last lap, pulling away from KT who had caught her from 2 minutes behind. The women's 10km was won by Natascia Leonardi-Cortesi.

Ben Derrick was the fastest Australian man today, finishing 17th in the 15km freestyle event with FIS points of 77 - the best points by any Australian this season. BD was flying over the first 2km, in 8th place and only 1 second behind Switzerland's best skier Reto Burgermeister (he has FIS points of 11), however he struggled with a stomach cramp mid-race and lost considerable time to the leaders. The end result was good, but not perhaps as good as it could have been. Ben Sim was the next Australian man in 26th place, the only junior skier in the 15km race, with points of 96. Chris Darlington was 46th with 140 points, James Rickard was 53rd with 173 points, and Nick Almoukov was 54th with 177 points. The race was won by Christoph Schnider, only 1 second ahead of Burgermeister.

In the junior classes Amy Watson finished 10th in the women U18 5km event, Ewan Watson finished 26th in the men U18 10km event, and Callum Watson ( 2 years younger than anyone else in the U18 category) finished 42nd.

Full results (minus the FIS point penalties) can be found on the website - look to the Schweizer Meistershaft link then the "Kurzdistans" results link.

January 21 - The Swiss Championships Begin

The location is now Pontresina in Switzerland and many Australian skiers have come together to compete in the Swiss Championships. The FIS registered Australian skiers competing here are:
Ben Derrick
KT Calder
Esther Bottomley
Ben Sim
Clare-Louise Brumley
Chris Darlington
Tim Retchford
Nick Almoukov
Amy Watson
Ewan Watson
James Rickard

In addition, we are waiting to see if Callum Watson and d'Arcy Baxter are allowed to start in the youth class - they are probably still a couple of years younger than all the other competitors.

The competition schedule for the FIS races is as follows:

Thursday January 22 - Women 10km and Men 15km Freestyle Individual Start
Saturday January 24 - Women 1km and Men 1.3km Freestyle Sprint
Sunday January 25 - Women 5/5km and Men 10/10km Classic/Freestyle Duathlon.

Results can be found at a link on the Pontresina website:

January 18- A Weekend of Many Races

It's late Sunday night and there have been many races happening all over the place with Australian participants. Here's a quick summary from several venues...

Nove Mesto World Cup
On Saturday January 17 Ben Sim made his World Cup debut in Nove Mesto in the Czech Republic. The race was a 15km classic, and Ben had been granted a wild card entry by FIS. Only one other junior skier (from Germany) was in the field, most of the rest were seasoned World Cup competitors. Unfortunately it was not the World Cup debut we had been hoping for. The course was a very tough 5km loop, and the Australian waxing team left Ben short on the grip front. After a gutsy first lap he struggled with insufficient grip and dropped back through the field. It was a credit to Ben that he kept working hard and finished the race. The final result - 71st place out of 73 starters, and 150 FIS points - his worst points ever in Europe. It's had to say what sort of form Ben is in because he didn't really have a chance to perform well in this race. We will see next week at the Swiss Championships.

Today was a better day for the Australians on World Cup. In the 1.2km freestyle sprint Esther Bottomley finished in 53rd place with 91 FIS points, from a field of 59 skiers, and Ben Sim finished 66th/69 with 110 FIS points - Esther's 2nd best FIS points ever and Ben's best for sprint. Esther was happy with her race and happy to get the re-qualification for next year's World Cup out of the way. Ben's legs were tired after the tough race yesterday and so his result was pretty good also.

The next World Cup for Australians - the classic sprint in Stockholm on February 18.

Admont Continental Cup
The Admont leg of the OPA Continental Cup started on Saturday with the freestyle sprint. KT Calder finished in 14th in the time-trial, qualifying for the finals for the first time, but was knocked out in the 1/4 final after a close race. Chris Darlington didn't have a good race, not sure of place or time. Clare-Louise Brumley and James Rickard were supposed to start in Admont also but remained training in Ramsau after C-L became sick.

In the mass start classic races on Sunday KT finished 9.3% behind the winner, with FIS point of about 144, and Darlo was about 12.9% off the pace with points of about 171 - got to love those mass start FIS points. In almost every mass start competitions the only skiers to better their point average are the skiers who go off in the front group.

A great result for Ben Derrick today at the Dolomitenlauf, Austria's Worldloppet event. BD finished in 9th place, sandwiched in a sprint finish between Fauner and Pozzi from Italy. The race was won by Marcus Hasler from Liechtenstein, with Gutierrez from Spain 2nd and Carl Swenson from the USA 3rd. BD was in contact with the leading pack until 15km befor the end, and finished up just under 4 minutes behind Hasler in a time of 2:07:57. This is the 3rd Worldloppet event that BD has made a top 10 result (4th if you include the skate leg of the Konig-Ludwig-Lauf), and bodes well for the rest of the season.

FIS Nevada University Competition
To the USA and the Soda Springs contingent of Nick Grimmer and brothers Circosta raced in the University competitions somewhere in Nevada (near Reno apparently). In the 10km skate on Saturday Andrew Circosta had the best result, finishing in 25th place out of 47 with about 132 FIS points. Nick finished 34th with about 154 FIS points, and Paul Circosta (the youngest skier in the race) 39th with 174 points. The next day in the 21km classic mass start Nick took the soft option of wax tehcnician, leaving Andrew and Paul to tough it out for 35th and 44th place respectively. FIS points probably not good after a small group went off the front - to quote Andrew Circosta "4 Norwegians, a German and one yank broke off the front and just destroyed everyone". Look out for a more detailed "Circa-Report" of the last month and a half in the USA coming soon.

Swedish Club Races
The first (brief) race report on Sally Cunningham, training and racing in Sweden under the guidance of Allison McArdle. Sally finished 4th yesterday in the 7.5km Jarloppet in Rattvik, 2 minutes behind the winner and behind 3 Swedish juniors apparently all qualified for the World Junior Championships in Stryn in Feburary. Sally was also to start in a 21km classic mass start race today, but no word on the result yet. 

Next week - all the action from the Swiss Championships in Pontresina, where 10 Australian skiers are due to start.

January 14- The Oberstdorf Sprint Debacle

The Location: Oberstdorf, Germany, site of the 2005 World Championships for cross country skiing.
The Event: OPA Continental Cup, Classic Sprint and Freestyle Sprint Relay events on the World Championship tracks.
The Dates: January 13 and 14, 2004.
The Combatants: Esther Bottomley, KT Calder, Chris Darlington, Ben Derrick.
The Weather: Rain, rain, a storm overnight then more rain.

This was a great opportunity to compete on the World Championship tracks in two of the events on the schedule for next year. However, while it was still a good experience, it wasn't quite the ideal dry run. First up was the Classic Sprint, on a tough 1.2km loop with two solid climbs. Only two skiers in the entire field didn't have to herringbone the second longer hill. The best Australian result by FIS points was from Ben Derrick, with points of about 130. The best place was from Esther Bottomley, who finished 16th and qualified for a Continental Cup final for the first time. Unfortunately it was only by default, as Esther had easily her worst race of the season, - tripping herself up on one of the uphills and finishing well off the pace. Darlo was a handful of seconds down on BD until he face planted in mushy snow going into the last bridge, losing 10-15 seconds. Finally, KT was having the best race of everyone, cranking up the hills, until she wiped out big time on the last corner. Off the side of the course for about half a minute, there was no point in finishing and KT was a DNF. The curtain closes on race day 1...

Sprint Relays the next day (today), 2 skiers per team and three laps each of the same course but this time in freestyle technique. KT Calder wasn't feeling 100% and opted to rest up for the FIS point races in Admont this weekend, so Esther teamed up with Katrin Hoefler from Germany. Though multiple efforts haven't been Esther's speciality she performed much better today in freestyle technique (albeit keeping a little in reserve so she didn't blow up), and the Australian/German team finished 6th out of 8 teams in the final. The men's event had two semi-finals, and Darlo was the starting man in semi #2. After a bit of to-and-fro on the first lap Darlo/BD settled into 7th place out of 7 for a while, until Darlo blew past the Spanish #2 team over the top of the hill and left them for dead. BD gained a little time on team number 5 (5 teams qualify for the final from each semi) on the last lap but any prospect of making the final was blown by a massive ski breaking stack on the same corner as KT from yesterday. He was up again quickly enough to hold off the Spaniards and take 6th place, but it was to be bye-bye to his best pair of rocket Peltonens... Bugger. Not the best couple of days of sprint racing for Australia.

Tomorrow this team splits up for three different competitions this weekend. Esther goes to Czech for the Wolrd Cup this weekend, joining Ben Sim who'll be arriving from Slovakia. BD heads to Lienz in Austria for the Dolomintenlauf, and KT and Darlo join Clare-Louise Brumley and James Rickard in Admont in Austria for the next round of OPA Continental Cup. Next week everyone joins up again in Pontresina for the Swiss Championships, including Tim Retchford coming down from Sweden and the rest of the NSW junior team now in Slovakia.

January 11- Åsarnaspelen

News just in from the Sweden Cup race in Åsarna today. In the 15km classic event Paul Murray recorded the best Australian FIS points of the season, apparently just under 90 (final points to be confirmed). Paul finished in 33rd place, 11.4% behind the winner Anders Hogberg from Sweden. In the battle of the other Australians Leon Spiller finished 2.2 seconds ahead of Tim Retchford, both with FIS points of about 150.

January 10 - Klosters COC

Another round of OPA Continental Cup competition, this time in Klosters in Switzerland. The races today were mass start freestyle on a 5km loop, the track a little soft after 30-40cm of new snow in the preceding 24hrs. KT Calder was up first in the women's 10km event, and after a scrambling start in the pack of 58 skiers she skied a pretty good first lap-and-a-bit, only 1:10 off the pace of the leaders after 5.5km. However the second half of the race wasn't as good, and KT lost another couple of minutes to end up in 37th place, 11% behind the winner Anke Reschwamm-Schulze from Germany. Next was the men's 15km, with Chris Darlington and Ben Derrick getting a trampling on the first lap fighting against over 100 men. Two laps later BD and Darlo finished in 45th and 76th place respectively, 9.7% and 18% behind the winner Florian Kostner from Italy. BD wasn't that satisfied with the result, but was relatively happy with how he felt in his first race of the season. Darlo described his race as "non-explosive", and is hoping for a pick-up in form soon.

Next race, a Continental Cup sprint (classic) on the 2005 World Championship course in Oberstdorf on Tuesday January 13, followed a sprint relay the next day.

January 8 - Relay Success plus Slovak Races

Relay Success
A short report from Paul Murray and Leon Spiller in Sweden

On the eve of the Double-Pursuit World Cup in Falun on January 6 the main draw card for the pre race festivities was a sprint relay held under lights in the Lugnet stadium. With 30 4-person teams ranging in ability and speed, and a rather tough 2km course, Paul Murray and Leon Spiller (racing for Wadköping Bil, a sponsor of their ski club Falun-Borlange) arrived with skating skis in tow and plenty of time to warm up. Enter surprise number one: ''What are those guys doing waxing classic skis? Yeah, and them, and them as well?'' On bad information they had been told it was skating, woops, it was classic! So 10 minutes before the start Paul and Leon's skis arrive with the kick wax still fresh from the morning's session and luckily for the same snow conditions.

Kalle Graffnings did a great job for Wadköping Bil on the first leg, hanging on to new Swedish world cup starter Petter Myhllback and both teams gained a big gap to third. From there Wadköping Bil built up a slight lead with Johan Henriksson, and by the time Leon took the stage in leg 3 their team had a 20 second lead. With Paul skiing last they ran away with a comfortable win, with both Leon and Paul feeling as though they had skied the fastest for the season and found some return to form. The commentator attempted an interview in Swedish in the finish area where Paul apologised in Swedish for his lack of Swedish and then went on to thank his team mates and sponsor (possibly in the hope of new team vehicles - they sell Mercedes Benz cars).

The team was then asked to join the presentation dinner later that night. Enter surprise number two: The boys were wearing jeans, t-shirts, and runners. Required - tie, slacks, shirt, and shiny black shoes. Apparently the dinner was a big dress up affair, but after Paul's girlfriend's dad (who is luckily 6 foot 2) shared his wardrobe with the boys they were kitted up and set for a gourmet feast of great food and free drinks. Special mention for Tim Retchford's powder blue suit and Vasaloppet tie from the late 80's.

So from here in Borlange with new snow on the ground and an improvement in form for the boys it's off to Åsarna this coming weekend for a 15km classic Swedish cup. Following that the racing schedule includes some longer classic marathon cups and plenty of hard training in the lead up to the February World cups in Scandinavia.

Apparently Katerina Neumannova from the Czech Republic and Tobias Angerer from Germany won the Double-Pursuit, but hey, that was only second-fiddle to the night relays.

Slovak Races
Meanwhile in Slovakia last weekend the NSW Team competed in races in Strebzke Pleso. Here are some results provided by team coach Nick Almoukov:

Results from classic races:
1 M. Bajicac 40.43
2 I. Batory 40.44
3 M. Malak 44.32
15. Ben Sim 48.02
22. Nick Almoukov 50:18

Aimee Watson finished 5th in her division out of 9.
Ewan Watson didn't finish.
Calum Watson finished 4th out of 15.
d'Arcy Baxter 5th out of 12.

Results from sprint races:
Ben finished 11th out of 35.
Ewan finished 8th out of 16.
Aimee Watson didn't qualify for the finals.
Alex Torres finished 16th.
Callum Watson made it to the B-Final.
d'Arcy Baxter finished 4th in A-final.
Sarah Slattery didn't qualify for the finals. 

January 4 - Bernau... In Schwarzwald

Bernau Continental Cup
A short report from the OPA Continental Cup competitions in Bernau on Germany on January 3-4. The freestyle sprint was on the Saturday, about a 1km loop only about 500m from the team hotel. Esther Bottomley placed 18th (again) in the open women's class, just outside qualifying for the finals with FIS points of 105.92 - the best of the season so far. The fastest qualifier was Moroder from Italy (deBertolis the fastest man). Today the distance classic races were held on a 2km loop at the top of a long windy one-way road. KT Calder finished 28th in the 5km classic (2.5 loops), with FIS points of about 120 (to be confirmed because we have just switched to a new FIS points list). Chris Darlington was 48th in the 10km classic, with maybe about 135 FIS points. Huber from Switzerland won the women and Frasnelli from Italy won the men. Better FIS points for everyone but no-one was really satisfied with their own performance. There is still lots of room for improvement. Full results should be on

This team grew by one yesterday when Ben Derrick arrived from Australia - a little late after a sightseeing tour of the southern German train stations. The base now is Oberstdorf, site of the 2005 World Championships. The next competition is the OPA Continental Cup in Klosters, Switzerland, on January 10.

December 29 - More Races

NORAM Continental Cup
First a quick step back to the NORAM Continental Cup races in Kelowna, Canada. In the 10km freestyle on December 20 Andrew Wynd scored personal best FIS points 124.67, placing 28th out of a field of 93, not bad for his first distance race of the season. The winner of the race was Ivan Babikov from Russia, ahead of most members of the Canadian men's team. The next FIS races for Wyndy will be USA SuperTour races in Mt Itasca and Telemark in the middle of January.

The Soldier Hollow SuperTour races concluded on the weekend of December 20/21, and Belinda Phillips and David Hunt made their season debut after only 4 days in the country. They were happy enough with their performances in the 5km and 10km freestyle events on Saturday December 20, with Belinda finishing 25th with 169 FIS points, and Dave finishing 49th with 143 FIS points. Dave skipped the men's pursuit on the Sunday while Belinda skied the 5km classic, finishing in 22nd place 3 minutes behind Wendy Wagner, the USA's best female skier. The next races for Dave and Belinda are the USA championships in Rumford Maine from January 3-11.

St Jakob FIS International
KT Calder and Chris Darlington made the trip south from Ramsau towards the Slovenian border for the FIS International race in St Jakob in Austria on December 28. In the women's 6km freestyle KT missed out on a podium finish by the narrowest of margins, placing 5th only 1.4 second from 3rd. A third place would have been assured if not for a fall on a downhill corner losing maybe 15 seconds. The winner of the race was Ekaterina Ivanova from Russia. Unfortunately any chance of good FIS points were destroyed by two of the top 5 skiers not having FIS points. The penalty was better in the men's 10km freestyle, with Christian Hoffmann (winner of the last World Cup - same distance and style) winning ahead of half of the Austrian men's team. Chris Darlington finished 32nd, 14.7% behind Hoffmann with FIS points of about 131, not completely satisfied with his race but happy with the upward form trend.

Ebbs Night Sprint
While KT and Darlo went south Esther Bottomley went west to an Austrian regional night race in Ebbs on December 27, not far from Kufstein. The planned race had been the German Sprint Championships at Rottach the same day, however the Germans decided late that it would be a German-only race. Ebbs was a short sprint - 3 laps of a 250 loop for the qualifying round and 3.5 laps for the final. The quality of the field was revealed when Esther recorded the fastest qualifying time by 8 seconds, and she went on to win comfortably in the final. Peter Moysey from New Zealand reared his no-so ugly head, finishing 6th in the men's over 40 category. Esther is now with KT and Darlo again in Schliersee in southern Germany. Latest news - an unsuccessful trip to Munich to see Lord of the Rings Part 3 in the only english cinema; the last ticket was sold one person ahead in the queue.

December 21 - OPA CC #1 (for Australians)

There was a lot of tough competition in the OPA Contintental Cup this weekend, with over 230 athletes competing at Toblach in northern Italy. Saturday's event was an individual sprint, and Esther Bottomley missed out on qualifiying for the finals by 1.4 seconds. Esther finished 18th in the open women's class, 11.9 seconds behind Magda Genuin from Italy, with KT Calder 3.8 seconds further back in 26th place. Chris Darlington finished 69th in the open men's event, 17.9 seconds behind the fastest qualifer, Mirco Rigoni of Italy. FIS points would be approximately 117, 142, and 191 respectively. Esther was pretty happy with her race, KT skied okay if lacking a little power, while Darlo felt a bit uncoordinated racing on such a short fast course for his first race.

Today were 10km and 15km mass start freestyle events for women and men. KT Calder finished 60th out of 70 in the women's 10km, about 12.4% behind the winner Anke Reshwamm-Schultz from Germany. Darlo finished maybe about 85th out of about 100, with a stackload of extremely fast Italians dominating the front of the field. FIS points were not so hot, maybe 175 for KT and 190 for Darlo, but they never usually are in mass start events unless you manage to get into one of the leading packs. Unfortunately the team had to hit the road before all the results were published.

All up, not too bad for season-opening races, everybody is healthy but not really quite in racing form yet. The OPA Continental Cup will continue in two weeks in Bernau in Germany, the same Australian skiers will be racing; in between will be the German Sprint Championships and possibly a FIS race in Austria. All this crew is based now in Ramsau in Austria until Boxing Day.

World Cup Debut for Ben Sim Delayed
The plan was for 18-year-old Ben Sim to make his World Cup debut in the 10km freestyle in Ramsau today. Unfortunately the "wild card" World Cup entry expected to be granted by FIS (Sim's best FIS points are only just outside the distance WC qualification standard of 50 points) was disallowed on Monday this week. Sim and coach Nick Almoukov, who were on site in Ramsau to watch the competitions, will now re-schedule their plans for the World Cup competitions in the Czech Republic on January 17-18, where Ben's starts in the 15km classic and the 1km sprint have been confirmed.

Some past news from Ben and Nick. From November 25th they were based in Novouralsk in Russia. On December 5th and 7th Ben competed in the Ural Cup, which featured skiers from about 33 Russian regions, plus Kazakstan and Ukraine. In the 10km classic Ben finished 19th, 2:47 behind Jevgeniy Koishevoy from Kazakstan who finished 2nd in the 2003 World Junior Championship 10km classic. In the 15km skate Ben finished 29th. The next weekend it was off to Tobolsk, a historical city dating to the 15th century. The organising committee gave them a warm reception, putting them up in a 4-star hotel. The races on the 13th/14th were a 10km classic and 15km skate pursuit. The first prize for this competition was a car. Ben finished 34th overall after the two races out of 158 starters.

Now in Ramsau, Ben and Nick head off to Slovakia on Tuesday where they will be soon joined by other younger members of the NSW junior team.

NORAM Continental Cup
More news from the SuperTour event from Soldier Hollow in the USA, which would have concluded today after a pile of races over 9 days. After an average performance in the opening sprint Andrew Circosta finished 33rd out of 67 in the 15km freestyle on December 14, with FIS points of about 141. Nick Grimmer and Paul Circosta did not have such great races in this event, finishing 55th and 60th. On December 17 was the 10km classic, which was changed from mass to individual start. Grimmer and A.Circosta had pretty good races here, finishing 18 seconds apart in 35th and 37th, and possibly (but not confirmed yet) each with personal best FIS points. That was it for this crew of Australians in this competition - they drove 11 hours back to Tahoe after the 10km. No news yet on Belinda Phillips and David Hunt, who were scheduled to compete on this weekend just gone.

December 16 - The Only Way Is Up

It was not an earth shattering World Cup debut for Esther Bottomley today, however it is likely only to get better from here on. Bottomley place 46th in the 1.2km classic Sprint in Lavaze, 26 seconds behind the fastest qualifier. Full results will no doubt be available soon on the FIS website. While Bottomley's FIS points of 141 from this race are far from her best of 74, there are lots of reasons why results will get better as this season progresses: This was the first race of the season, after only 1 week on snow, in her non-preferred technique, in not particularly fast conditions, and she scrambled on all the corners and transitions. With lots of room for improvement Bottomley is looking forward to moving up the list in the next World Cup sprint in Czech in the middle of January.

The women's sprint final was won by Marit Bjoergen, the men's final by Jens Arne Svartedal, both from Norway.

December 14 - Bottomley to make World Cup Debut

The second event of the 2003-2004 Sprint World Cup will take place at Lavaze in Italy on Tuesday December 16. The classic event was moved from Asiago because of poor snow, however conditions are very good at Lavaze, a very small town in a pass up from Val di Fiemme. Australia's top female sprinter Esther Bottomley is set to make her World Cup debut in this competition, however her male counterpart Paul Murray is a very late scratching after coming down with a cold today. Murray was due to fly down from Sweden tomorrow morning, but will now remain up north. Expectations are not too high on Bottomley, who has only been on snow in Europe for one week, however it should be good experience for later in the season.

Continental Cup Competitions in North America and Scandinavia
Only very brief news from other Australians competing in Continental Cup races around the world. Nick Grimmer reports from the NORAM SuperTour in Soldier Hollow - he just missed out on qualifying for the finals in the classic sprint competition on December 13 by 0.27 of a second and ended up 17th. He was 13 seconds (or about 6.8%) behind the fastest qualifer, the USA's best sprint time trialer Andrew Newell - one second more than in West Yellowstone two weeks ago, however the time trial was over 1 minute longer this time around. No news on the Circosta brothers Andrew and Paul who were also set to compete in this round of the SuperTour. The races continue at Soldier Hollow with a 15km skate today and a 10km mass start on Wednesday (distances for men). Belinda Phillips and David Hunt are also expected to arrive in Soldier Hollow about now and to compete in the competitions later next week.

In the Scandinavian Cup in Ostersund we have no times or places yet however Tim Retchford apparently made a "disappointing" start to his race season while Leon Spiller skied "okay".

Australian skiers will make their season debut in the OPA Continental Cup (central Europe) next weekend in Toblach in northern Italy. These competitions were moved from Oberstdorf in Germany due to poor conditions.

December 1 - Aussies in Sprints

Swedish Cup Sprints, Sveg
Australia's top sprinter Paul Murray put in some solid performances in the Swedish Cup Sprint competitions held in Sveg on the weekend. Most of the top Swedish sprinters were on site, including World Cup winners/finalists Mikael Ostberg, Bjorn Lind, Anders Hogberg, and Peter Larsson, with a freestyle sprint on Saturday and classic on Sunday. In very deep fields Murray finished in 29th place in the freestyle and 18th in the classic, and while his aim was to make the finals, his form is back on track after the disappointing start in Dusseldorf in October. Murray was 10.4 seconds off the top qualifier in the freestyle, and though 12.2 seconds behind in the classic it was the latter performance that was more promising. The top two qualifiers blitzed the field by double-poling on skating skis, leaving the 3rd placed qualifier 6.4 seconds behind and hence Murray only 5.8 seconds out of 3rd place. He also claimed the scalp of Bjorn Lind, who finished 19th. Australian skier Leon Spiller made his season debut in Sveg, finishing 49th in both races.

Mikael Ostberg won both competitions ahead of Peter Larsson, the Dusseldorf World Cup winner and current leader of the Sprint World Cup. The women's sprints were won by junior skiers - Ida Ingemarsdotter won the freestyle, and Ingrid Vikman won the classic.

Full results can be found on the Sveg website - click on the "H21 Total" links for the senior men's results.

West Yellowstone Sprints, USA
Nick Grimmer made his season debut (also first international competitions in the open class) in the West Yellowstone SuperTour event in the USA. Grimmer finished in 30th place (out of over 100!) in the 1km freestyle sprint event, 12 seconds behind Andrew Newell the fastest qualifier. Newell, the highest ranked US sprinter at 35th in the world, went on to win the final ahead of Torin Koos and David Chamberlain in a 3-way lunge. The women's sprint was won by Wendy Wagner ahead of Sandra Gredig.

Grimmer was confident going into the race, perhaps a bit too confident:

"I was feeling really strong and fast going into the race and I think that is what let me down, as I went out so very fast that I got half way into the course and just blew up. Felt like I was going 10km pace on the way back into the finish... However I was and still am feeling in great form and just guessing my FIS points would have been around 125, which is around my best, so hopefully in a couple weeks at Park City I can hold it together for the full distance and get a decent result."

Results are available on the West Yellowstone website (though lacking times for the top skiers).

Images From Season 2003/2004

Paul Murray in Drammen World Cup
Norway, February 2004 

Ben Derrick, 2nd in 2004 Koenig Ludwig Lauf 50km Freestyle

Tim Retchford, Pontresina International Night Sprint
Switzerland, January 2004

Australian Team st Swiss Championships in Pontresina, January 2004
From L-R Tim Retchford, Ben Derrick, Esther Bottomley, Ben Sim, Aimee Watson, Chris Darlington, KT Calder, Ewan Watson, Nick Almoukov, Finn Marsland. (Absent, Clare-Louise Brumley, James Rickard)

KT Calder, 3rd Place Swiss Championship Sprint
Pontresina, January 2004

Ben Sim Racing in Swiss Championships
Pontresina, January 2004

Tim Retchford and Esther Bottomley
Pontresina, Switzerland, January 2004

Ben Derrick Racing in Swiss Championships
Pontresina, January 2004

KT Calder, training in Oberstdorf
January 2004

Chris Darlington and Ben Derrick, training in Oberstdorf
Germany, January 2004

KT Calder in Toblach Continental Cup
Italy, December 2003 

Chris Darlington, Toblach Continental Cup, Italy 2003

Esther Bottomley, Lavaze World Cup, Italy 2003



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