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2007 World Junior / U23 Championships
Tarvisio, Italy, March 12-18
Official Championship Site
Back to 2006/2007 Team Reports

Updates: Team - Mar 12 - Mar 13 - Mar 14 - Mar 15 - Mar 18

Aussie WJC Reports

The Australian Team

Australian Junior Team: Aimee Watson ,Alex Almoukov (Neil van der Ploeg, Simon Flower, Ewan Watson, Chloe McConville, Callum Watson)*
U23 Team: Ben Sim (Mark van der Ploeg)*
Coaches: Finn Marsland, Nick Almoukov
* Brackets indicates athletes who were selected to the team but were unable to compete because of the postponement of the competitions from the original dates

Competition Schedule:



Australian Competitors

March 12

Women Junior Sprint Classic

Aimee Watson

Men Junior Sprint Classic

Alex Almoukov

March 13

Women U23 Sprint Classic

No Australians

Men U23 Sprint Classic

Ben Sim

March 14

Women Junior 5km Freestyle

Aimee Watson

Men Junior 10km Freestyle

Alex Almoukov

March 15

Women U23 10km Freestyle

No Australians

Men U23 15km Freestyle

Ben Sim

March 16

Women Junior 10km Pursuit

Aimee Watson

Men Junior 20km Pursuit

Alex Almoukov

March 17

Women U23 15km Pursuit

No Australians

Men U23 30km Pursuit

Ben Sim

March 18

Women Junior 4 by 3.3km Relay

No Australian Team

Men Junior 4 by 5km Relay

No Australian Team

Full results at www.jwsc2007.com and www.fis-ski.com

March 12 - Competition Day 1 - Junior Sprint Events

The 2007 World Junior/U23 Championships started today, six weeks later than the scheduled dates. Of the nine athletes originally selected to the Australian Team for these competitions, only three are present in Tarvisio for the postponed events. The sole U23 competitior Ben Sim has returned to Europe directly from the World Championships in Japan, arriving in Italy yesterday morning. Alex Almoukov arrived in Tarvisio two days ago after a month of training in Russia, while Aimee Watson has been training in Tarvisio for 6 days with the USA team, having returned from Australia after a month off snow. Because of the lack of snow (still) in Tarvisio, the competittions are being held in a valley about 10km out of town, very close to the Slovenian border.

It was not a great start for the Australian Team today, however with the athletes that are here the classic sprint was always going to be the least favoured event. Aimee Watson finished 63rd out of 74 starters, while Alex Almoukov was 79th out of a starting field of 84. The course was relatively flat, with one gradual hill about 250m out of the start that perhaps half of the men's field double poled. Even the men who went with wax used it for only about 150-200m, depending on how far they double poled up the hill. Aimee was a little light on the grip side, but she had enough to make it up the hill okay. Only a couple of the junior women double poled the course, though if Chloe McConville were here she probably would have had a crack at it. Alex wasn't short of energy during his time-trial, he spent half the race doing his best to trip himself up he was trying so hard to go fast. He didn't quite succeed in either. Both Alex and Aimee will be looking to do a lot better on Wednesday in the individual freestyle events.

Tomorrow is Ben Sim's turn at the classic sprint in the U23 class, and unless a hill grows into the course overnight he will be double poling on skating skis. This is not normally Ben's strongest technique, and he is nursing a slight shoulder injury, but after seeing the junior men today it is likely that most of the U23 men will be double poling. And hey, its less work for the service team!

March 13 - Competition Day Two - U23 Sprint Events

Ben Sim finished 48th today in the U23 men's classic sprint, 17 seconds behind the fastest qualifier. As expected, most of the men's field double poled the course, though it could be said that some of them skated a bit of it as well. Definitions of classic technique were definitely pushed to the limit. Though it would have been nice to qualify in the top 30 for the finals, Ben wasn't disatissifed with his performance, considering that it was all double poling and he normally excels on the hills. However if this is how classic sprinting is going to become then the future of this event may be in danger. It was possible to double pole this course without skating, but in sprints everyone is looking for every tenth of a second and if the rules of classic technique are not enforced then of course many people will break them. The problem today was that strictly enforcing the rules would have meant that half the field would be disqualified, which would cause a lot of controversy. Needless to say, if the TD's were prepared to disqualify half the field then athletes would think twice about pushing the techniques limits in the next event. It has to start sometime. It is no problem for athletes to double pole classic sprints if they want, however if they do they should be prepared to just double pole, not skate. Anyway ranting and raving aside, the other important side note today was that Simbo finished ahead of a Norwegian athlete in an international championship sprint for the first time. Its always good to beat some Norwegians.

Next up is the junior freestyle events, 5km for women and 10km for men. Aimee and Alex tested their skis today and are ready to go. Conditions are expected to be like the last few days, frozen hard tracks first thing in the morning that get wet quickly once the sun has been on them. The starting order has been reversed so that the highest ranked skiers start first instead of last. Aimee has start number 56 out of 83 entries, Alex has start number 62 out of 96. The snow will probably still be firm on some of the track when Aimee races, however when Alex races it will likely be softening. These are the main events for our junior athletes here, their best chances for a good result. The general aim is to achieve finishes in the top 50% of the field; though no-one would be complaining if someone cracked it into the top 30 or under 120 FIS points.

March 14 - Competition Day Three - Junior Freestyle Events

Results today were far below expectations. Aimee Watson finished 72nd out of 83 starters in the 5km freestyle; Alex Almoukov was 83rd out of 94 in the 10km. Aimee was 2:20 behind the winner Charlotta Kalla from Sweden, which would normally not be too bad considering that Kalla was one of the in form skiers at the recent World Champs in Japan; however today the times were really fast and Kalla's winning time was under 12 minutes. Earlier starters definitely had an advantage as the snow became softer, but still Aimee was unable to hold off the skiers ranked behind her. Alex really found it hard going in the soft snow, which deteriorated even more during the men's race. The only plus was that he was only 5:30 behind the winner Martti Jylhae from Finland, compared to over 9 minutes behind the winner in the WJC 10km event in 2006. However if the track was firm and Alex skied like he did earlier this season then he surely would have been a couple of minutes closer to the winner. What is it with Australians and soft snow? We never seem to do well when the tracks are soft. The last event for the juniors is on Friday in the pursuit competitions. Alex isn't looking forward to it, as the tracks are likely to be soft again and his classic skiing hasn't been as good as his skating. But at least Aimee has had a bit of practice in pursuits this season and the longer distance might help her.

In the 15km tomorrow we are looking for some sort of restittution of national pride from Simbo. He is ranked 31st out of 73 starters, and might possibly benefit from the earlier start number. On the other hand, it will probably be pretty soft for everyone after the first lap. It was over 15 degrees in Tarvisio when we came back from the tracks today!

March 15 - Competition Day Four - U23 Freestyle Events

In the 15km freestyle today Ben Sim finished 37th, 3:39 behind Dario Cologna from Switzerland (who won the Engadin Ski Marathon last weekend). He was 25 seconds outside the top 30, which was one of the goals for today, and just over 10% behind Cologna. It was a pretty good result in the warm and wet conditions, but Ben will be keen to crack into the top 30 in the pursuit on Saturday, in which he finished 38th at the U23 Champs in 2006. Similar to yesterday, the conditions became slower as the race went on, but Simbo didn't fare too badly from his seed in the starting field. While some of the skiers just ahead of him had faster snow, some of them just behind him had slower, so on the whole he possibly ended up in a similar position to where he would have been if the snow speed was even for everyone.

It was damn hot today in Tarvisio; +23 degrees when we returned to town after the race. We are probably lucky that it is freezing overnight so at least it is firm until about 9:30. The women's pursuit tomorrow should be pretty quick, as it will be over before the tracks start to soften. But the men's pursuit will have soft snow again and Alex is trembling in his boots.

March 18 - Competition Day Five and Six - Pursuit Events

It is always the way, the last reports come a little late. Usually due to frantic packing and travelling. In the junior pursuit events on March 16 Aimee Watson finished 68th out of 76 starters in the women's 10km pursuit and Alex Almoukov finished 81 out of 89 in the men's 20km pursuit. Aimee wasn't so fast out of the blocks in the mass start, but moved up during the 5km classic leg to be around 65th coming into the changeover. She lost time (and maybe half a dozen places) during the changeover, but then skied the 60th fastest skate time to reel in some places on the skate leg. She came into the finish with a German skier however was outsprinted for 67th. Alex struggled a little with slippery skis in the classic 10km, but then gave a very good example of the changeover that we will showing on video at training camps this year. He dug deep in the mushy conditions over the second 10km and moved up 7 places in the freestlye leg.

Ben Sim was hoping for something special in this last event, the U23 30km pursuit on March 17, however found out soon into the race that it was not to be. His skis were a little grabby in the shaded sections of the course and he fell over three time on uphills, however it was the body that wasn't quite up to the task. Suspicions were aroused when Simbo started sprinting through the changover zone, as he had mentioned the day before that he tries to get a fast change time if the race isn't going so well. He had the 10th quickest change time, overtaking an Austrian athlete and looked ready to take on the world as he headout out for the freestyle leg. That was the end of the energy surge though, and though he overtook a few dying athletes he was overtaken by several as well and ended up in 51st place, his lowest of these championships. He said after the race that the season was now over, his body had enough - but actually he has another World Cup sprint to go in Stockolm next week and then a sprint tour in Russia coming up after that. No rest for the wicked! Hold on, he hasn't been wicked either...

Anyhow that's it, event over. It was a shame these championships weren't held back in January/February when the full Australian Team was here and the athletes were also in better shape. Europe better get its act into shape and have plenty of snow for the 2008 World Juniors and U23s in Poland or there will be trouble!

Maybe some pics will make it up here over the next weeks, but don't hold your breath. Didn't you hear, Simbo said the season is over! Time to think about sun and the beach and snow in mid-June...

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