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Torino Winter Olympic Special
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Apologies that the reports during the Torino Winter Olympics will be very limited.. For all the details on the full Australian Team in Torino the Australian Olympic Committee site should be the best source.

If you missed the earlier reports, three cross country skiers made the Australian Team for Torino - Clare-Louise Brumley, Paul Murray, and Esther Bottomley. We will try to get brief reports up from their race days.

February 12 - Clare-Louise 42nd in Pursuit
February 16 - Health Issues
February 20 - Down and Up
February 22 - No Cinderella Story in Sprint
Epilogue - Dreams of Olive Oil

For all the earlier reports from the team in the lead-up to the games, look back through the Australian Team 2005/2006 Reports section.

For all the other normal International news links, see the Summer 05/06 Reports section.




Australian Team Reports

Epilogue - Dreams of Olive Oil

Another four years down and another Winter Olympics by the wayside. While there is a lot more to international skiing than this one event, it is usually seen as the pinnacle of the sport. Four years ago after no Australian cross country skiers made it to Salt Lake City not many people would have tipped Esther Bottomley and Clare-Louise Brumley to be in the team for Torino. Esther was still a junior and it wasn't until 2003 that Clare-Louise made a serious return to racing and made the Australian Team. It just shows what some hard work and determination can achieve, and a lot can happen in four years. So now is the time to ask what can happen between now and Vancouver 2010. Can we get a skier into the top 20? Could we see an Australian lining up on the start line in the sprint finals? Will some as yet unidentified Australian junior come from nowhere to make the team? Can we support our team so that the athletes don't have to take out bank loans to get to the Olympics? Is there someone out there who can perform the combined job of wax technician and team masseur and doesn't mind being paid with olive oil? Can we, could we, is it conceivable that an Australian cross country skier could possibly win a Winter Olympic medal? These questions may or may not be answered over the next four years. However you can be assured that there are already people dreaming about these things. Even the olive oil.

Special thanks to the people who helped to get the Australian athletes to Torino. Not least the rest of the World Cup athletes - Ben Derrick, KT Calder, Ben Sim, and (briefly) Andrew Mock. The wax technicians on World Cup - Robert Fischer in Dusseldorf; Nick Almoukov in Beitostolen and Kuusamo; Alan Mortimer in Sovereign Lakes; Bjorn Kristiansen in Beitostolen, Kuusamo, and at Torino. Falls Creek, without whom the team wouldn't have been able to afford any wax technicians or land transport. Steffen Hoos and the guys from Toko. The George and Carter families in Silver Star. Fischer (Paul) and Atomic (Clare-Louise and Esther) for some fast skis. And in particular the support (financial, moral, emotional, etc) of the families and friends of the athletes, without which no-one would get anywhere.

February 22 - No Cinderella Story in Sprint

Despite less than ideal preparation over the last 10 days, hopes and expectations were still high for Paul Murray and Esther Bottomley in the Olympic Sprint competitions today. However there was no Cinderella story and Paul finished 51st and Esther 52nd in the qualifying time-trial, each around 5 seconds short of the top 30 required to make the finals. On the start list the two were ranked 38th and 32nd respectively from FIS points. Each skied about as good as they could on the day, but their bodies weren't up for producing the top 30 result they were aiming for. Certainly it will be disappointing for Paul and Esther to have put so much effort in and come so far only to have results that don't really do them justice. But their performances over the last few years along with the rest of the Australian World Cup team have put us back on the world cross country skiing map, and it has been an fantastic achievement for Australia to get three athletes into this Winter Olympics.

The most outstanding performance of the day came from Chandra Crawford from Canada, who skied awesomely throughout the finals to win the gold medal convincingly ahead of Claudia Kuenzel of Germany and Alena Sidko of Russia. Crawford's team-mate Beckie Scott who won the time-trial ended up 4th in the A-final. Also a great day for Kikkan Randall from the USA who made the semi-finals. In the men's sprint Bjorn Lind from Sweden won the qualifying and then went on to win the A-final ahead of Daragon from France and Fredriksson from Sweden. Andy Newell from the USA qualified 2nd in the time trial but was knocked out in the quarter-finals.

February 20 - Down and Up

Another health update on the team in Sestriere. Unfortunately Clare-Louise Brumley's cold has developed into bronchitis, which combined with her normal asthma issues has meant that she has decided not to compete in the 30km Freestyle event. It was a disappointing decision that she had to make, but Clare-Louise should take heart that her World Cup results this season and her Olympic Pursuit result have been sensational and ground-breaking performances for women's distance racing in Australia.

On the plus side, Paul Murray seems to be coming good. Because of his lapse in training last week he will likely be a little underdone for the sprint coming up on Wednesday, however he is fired up and ready to try and pull a big race out of the bag. Esther Bottomley's health is also improving , she had her first interval session in a week today and though the form she was in 10 days ago wasn't evident she has two more days to find that spark. After heavy snowfalls conditions seem to be stabilising again with cold nights and warm afternoons so hopefully the track will be hard and fast like it was at the early part of these games.

February 16 - Health Issues

A quick but not happy update on the Australian cross country athletes in Torino. Well not actually in Torino, at the athlete village in Sestriere which is 10km from the competition venue at Pragelato. Anyway, all three athletes are sick. Esther Bottomley picked up a cold a couple of days ago, Paul Murray has been having trouble with his sinuses and with asthma, and Clare-Louise seems to have a relapse of the cold she had at the start of the games. There are still 6 days left until the Sprint and 8 days until Clare-Louise's 30km, so hopefully things start to turn around soon.

February 12 - Clare-Louise 42nd In Pursuit

The Torino cross country competitions opened today with a great performance from Clare-Louise Brumley in the women's 15km Pursuit. Clare-Louise finished 42nd out of the field of 67 starters, just over 4 minutes behind the winner Kristina Smigun from Estonia. Going into the race Clare-Louise was ranked 52nd in the field on FIS points, which determined her place on the mass start grid. She skied an awesome classic leg to be in 38th place after the change, and moved up into 37th place early on in the skating leg. On the last two laps of the skate her place see-sawed around 38th-42nd place before she ended up in 42nd, about 9.9 percent behind Smigun.

Early reports from the team in Torino were that Clare-Louise had come down with a cold, however she must have recovered pretty quickly to record this impressive result. She knocked off all the USA team, half the Canadians, and also skiers from Norway, Sweden, and Germany who have been top 10 on World Cup this season. Unfortunately Clare-Louise didn't make the Australian Winter Olympic qualification standard for her favourite event, the 10km Classic, but she did qualify for the 30km Freestyle which she will race on February 24.

The only other Australian female cross country skier to compete at the Winter Olympics was Colleen Bolton in Lake Placid in 1980. Colleen finished 36th in the 5km and 35th in the 10km. Though the fields were smaller in those days (there were 38 skiers in each of the races), Colleen had a very good percentage in the 10km, finishing only 11% behind the winner. Australia's best cross country skiing place at the Winter Olympics is 33rd place (out of 90 skiers) by Chris Heberle in the 10km Classic in Calgary in 1988, and best percentage 7.2% by Anthony Evans in the 10km Classic in Albertville in 1992.

The next race for the Australian cross country skiers is not until February 22, when Esther Bottomley and Paul Murray contest the Sprint.