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2009 World Championships
Liberec, Czech Republic, February 18 - March 1
Back to 2008/2009 Team Reports

The Australian Team

Athletes - Esther Bottomley, Chris Darlington, Nick Grimmer, Andrew Mock, Paul Murray, Mark Raymond, Ben Sim, Mark van der Ploeg, Aimee Watson, Callum Watson, Andrew Wynd
Manager - Brian Keeble
Coach - Finn Marsland
Service Team - Robert Bergmann (SWE), Jeff Ellis (CAN), Cameron Dickinson, Robert Fischer (GER)
Team Doctor - Jane Fitzpatrick
Physiotherapist - Andrew Wynd

Competition Schedule and Results
Brief Athlete Profiles

For news during the championships: - Official Website - XC Ski World - Faster Skier - Ski Faster - FIS - Cross Country Canada - XC-Ski.de (German)

Australian Team Reports

March 1 Update - Men 50km Freestyle

It was a fantastic effort by all of our athletes today to finish the 50km Freestyle. Andrew Mock was 50th, Callum Watson 52nd, Chris Darlington 54th, and Mark Raymond 55th. Out of the field of 68 athletes seven were lapped and another six pulled out at other times. To start the final 7.5km lap athletes had to be within about 17.5% of the leaders, and Darlo and Raymesy just made it through. Mocky had a great start and was up in the lead pack for most of the first lap. Unfortunately his pole was broken (by some idiot, said Mocky) just before the first drink station, and though he managed to get a new pole relatively quickly by the time the pack was in the stadium half a minute later Mocky was just off the back in 40th place and he never regained full contact. By the 15km mark Mocky was one minute back from the leaders in 52nd place, with Callum another 1:10 behind in 56th together with Jonas Olsen of Denmark. Raymesy was another 25 seconds behind Callum, with Darlo a further 1:50 behind Raymesy. The next 5km Mocky began to suffer a little and lost another minute on the leaders, while Callum started to work his way up. At the 27.5km mark coming throught he stadium Callum's group bridged across to Mocky, with Callum just off the the back. Mocky managed to tack onto Olsen, leaving Callum skiing alone behind.

Meanwhile, Raymesy was starting to really hurt, losing time to the leaders more quickly, and Darlo started to close the gap which had been out to over two and half minutes. Between 40 and 42km a few things happened. Raymesy stacked, Darlo caught Raymesy, and Raymesy put on a massive effort to get into the stadium ahead of the leading pack. Unfortunately for Raymesy that just about broke him. The next 7.5km was one of the hardest things he had done, which given he nearly died a couple of times climbing mountains in India is saying something. Darlo had troubles with cramps on his lap, but finished relatively strong to be 17.2% behind the winner Northug of Norway, which was a pretty good effort. Callum started to tire but held his position and was 14% behind Northug at the finish, a great result for a junior in his first ever 50km. Mocky was dropped by Olsen, but picked up a tiring Latvian on the last hill to move up to 50th. Mocky was 11.7% behind, his best individual result of the championship.

And that's it. Three of our waxing crew are now sick, and also a couple of the athletes, but we made it through. Most of the team now heads back to Australia or other places around the world. A handful will head up to Scandinavia for the last World Cup races. Some more photos will be posted soon. Cherio.

February 28 Update - Women 30km Freestyle

The last women's r ace of the championship was the 30km Freestyle and Aimee Watson skied a good race to finish in 53rd place, 18.2% behind the winner Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland. Aimee didn't get a great start, back in 60th place after the first kilometre, and was never really in contact with a pack at all. However after the first 3.75km lap she began to get into a good rhythm and slowly started to reel in and pick off skiers ahead of her. New for the world championships this year was the opportunity to switch skis in the long distance events, and Aimee swapped skis in the stadium at the 11.25 and 18.75 exchange points. Whether it helped or not is debatable - Aimee was skiing faster for sure after switching to freshly waxed skis, however she lost around 20 seconds or so each time in the exchange box. On the last lap Aimee overtook a Bulgarian skier to move up into 53rd place, and then on the final climb she rapidly caught a skier from Kazakstan who was fading badly. Moving up into 52nd place at the top of the last big downhill, unfortunately Aimee then took a highspeed fall halfway down the hill, which cost her a place and at least 20 seconds. KT Calder skiing for New Zealand had a great race, finishing in 43rd place.

Tomorrow is the final event and we have a full line-up. Mark Raymond will make his championship debut in the 50km, joining Andrew Mock, Chris Darlington, and Callum Watson. It's likely to be a chaotic day, with the guys allowed to swap their skis four times and our support crew also supplying drinks to three Danish skiers.

February 27 Update - Men 4 x 10km Relay

Today the boys skied well but unfortunately were unable to finish the relay. Third leg skier Andrew Mock was caught by the leader Goering of Germany after 6.5km and had to pull out. At this stage the team time was right on 12.5% behind Germany. On the first leg Ben Sim and British skier Andrew Musgrave lost contact with the pack towards the end of the first 3.3km loop. At the first change Simbo was about 10 seconds behind Musgrave and just over 12% behind the leaders. Callum Watson caught and went past the second British skier on his first lap, then skied the rest of his leg solo to start Mocky 6:53 behind the leaders and around 1:22 ahead of the lapping Goering. Callum's time behind the fastest on the second leg was just over 15%. Mocky took off as if it was only a 3.3km race and Goering closed the gap only by around 25 seconds on that lap, which was impressive as Goering was pulling away from most of the other skiers at this time. However then Mocky realised he was going to have to keep going another lap at the same pace if Mark van der Ploeg was going to be able to start. In the end Mocky did very well to hold off Goering all the way into the stadium, dropping only 1:22 over 6.5km meant that he was skiing around 10% behind. Mark unfortunately didn't get to put his skis on. That's how it goes on a 3.3km loop. The team ended up 14th out of 15 teams - the USA were 13th. Norway won in a sprint finish ahead of Germany. It was tough racing conditions, basically you could call it wet slop.

Tomorrow Aimee Watson races the women's 30km Freestyle. It will be a tough race in this snow, but Aimee prefers these conditions to icy tracks.

The 4x10km Team: Ben Sim, Callum Watson, Andrew Mock, Mark van der Ploeg

February 26 Update - The Night Before The Relay

Tomorrow Ben Sim, Callum Watson, Andrew Mock, and Mark van der Ploeg will line up for the 4x10km Relay; the first time Australia has entered in this event at the World Championship or on World Cup since 1993. It will be a tough race. Because the organisers are using 3.3km loops for both classic and skating legs our team will need to be skiing under 9% behind the leading teams in order to fin ish the race without being lapped. Even to start the last leg we need to be under 11%. On paper this means all our athletes will need to ski the races of their lives, and this is the challenge we are accepting. There are only 15 teams entered, of which the 13th ranked is the USA, the 14th ranked is Great Britain, and we are 15th. The British team is very young and will also need to pull something special out of the bag to finish the event.

February 25 Update - Men Team Sprint

The Australian team of Ben Sim and Mark van der Ploeg finished 19th in the Team Sprint today out of 23 teams. The guys were in contention for 16th place at the start of the second last leg; unfortunately Simbo fell going over into the first downhill, allowing the Great Britain team to build a decisive gap. It may have been a close finish regardless, however the time difference was too much for Mark to bridge on the last leg. Six teams progressed from our semi-final, including the eventual gold medal winners Norway.

Simbo made a good start on the first leg, coming into the change zone in the middle of the pack. There was chaos in the change and we lost some places, but then on the big downhill Mark rocketed back up into the main group. Losing a little time coming up into the stadium Mark was then on the heels of Lithuania and about 3-4 seconds behind Italy and Slovakia. On Simbo's second leg he was starting to slip a little and dropped back behind Musgrave of GB, though still made a short gap over Lithuania. Mark climbed back past Platt of GB into 9th place and sent Simbo off on his last leg just ahead of Musgrave, who bridged the gap going up the first hill. After Simbo's fall he fought on and came into the final change 26 seconds behind the Brits. Mark pulled back 12 seconds on his last leg but it wasn't enough. The boys ended up 10th in their heat, but their final time was faster than that of 10th place Belarus in the other semi-final.

Tomorrow is the women's relay and we don't have a team. Our men's relay team will be finalised tomorrow.

February 24 Update - Men and Women Sprint Freestyle

It was a good all-round performance from the athletes today in the Sprint events, with three results in the top half of field and two comfortably in the top 2/3. Esther Bottomley was 59th in the women's sprint, just over 8 seconds outside qualifying for the top 30. Paul Murray finished 57th, edging out Mark van der Ploeg in 58th by 0.14 of a second, with Andrew Mock 64th and Nick Grimmer 74th. Paul and Mark were also just over 8 seconds outside the top 30. The fastest qualifiers were Natalia Matveeva of Russia and Johan Kjoelstad of Norway.

Esther had the highest expectations in the race today and was disappointed with where she ended up. She felt good for the first 800m then things fell apart a bit in the last 500m. Still, her race points were under her FIS average and generally she seems to be in reasonable shape with more World Cups coming up in March.

The guys were all generally happy today. Paul felt the best he has for the last month and seems to be coming back into some sort of race shape again. Mark and Mocky skied their best ever sprint FIS points and were moving well. Nick didn't show the best form he has this winter but was still in close contact with the other guys and ahead of some handy skiers.

To note, our wax tech Jeff Ellis' wife Kikkan Randall from the USA took a silver medal in the women's final behind Ariana Follis of Italy. Ole Vigen Hattestad won the men's final.

Tomorrow is the Team Sprint in classic technique and Ben Sim and Mark van der Ploeg are teaming up together. Normally Paul would have been starting in this event however there was too much uncertainty about his ability to last three rounds at high speed at the moment. Although he is on the way up again we didn't want to take the risk, and Mark has shown this winter that he is ready to take on this challenge. We decided not to enter a women's team because Aimee is preparing for the 30km coming up on Saturday.

February 22 Update - Men 30km Pursuit

Ben Sim had a great race today in the 30km Pursuit, cranking home on the skate leg to to take 42nd place. Simbo was just 4:03 or 5.3% behind the winner Petter Northug of Norway. The other three Australians were pulled from the race because of the overlapping rule, in controversional circumstances for some. With final rankings taken from their last time split, Callum Watson was 61st, Chris Darlington 69th, and Andrew Wynd 74th out of 92 starters.

Waxing was tricky again with all Australians switching to no-wax skis for the classic leg just before the start. Simbo finished the classic leg in 52nd place, then quickly moved up to 48th place with about the 10th fastest time split from the 16 to 18km mark. Skiing alongside British junior Andrew Musgrave for much of the skate leg, the two reeled in a number of big name skiers including Gaillard and Jonnier of France, and Fischer of Switzerland. Simbo kicked away from a small pack over the last hill to 42nd place, one place behind the World Cup leader Cologna of Switzerland.

Wyndy was the first Australian to be pulled from the race, in pretty much ridiculous circumstances. He should at least have been allowed to finish the classic leg, as there was zero chance of being caught by the leaders who were still several minutes away from hitting the exchange zone, and then they were heading out on the freestyle tracks. Darlo fought through to about the 20km mark, holding off the lead pack by around 20 seconds over the top of the last big hill and withdrawing voluntarily in the stadium. Callum was possibly the hardest done by, as he was pulled by the race jury as he headed out on his third freestyle lap with still a minute lead ahead of the pack. Considering that Callum only lost one minute to the leaders in the first 7.5km, there's a pretty reasonable chance that he could have finished the next 3.75km lap and made it onto the last lap. There have already been some heated discussions with the jury and there will be more.

Tomorrow, no races. It'll be a day of recovery skiing and skate ski testing for the sprint on Tuesday.

February 21 Update - Women 15km Pursuit

Aimee Watson was 60th in the women's 15km Pursuit today, 16.7% behind the winner Justyna Kowalcyzk of Poland. Nearly in last place out of the stadium, Aimee moved up steadily during the classic leg to hit the exchange in 61st place, 7 seconds behind an Estonian skier. She reeled in and overtook the Estonian on the first 2.5km skate loop, then was caught from behind by 2009 USA 5km champion Caitlin Compton. The two skied together for a while, then Compton made a break on the start of the last skate loop. At the finish Aimee was 13 seconds behind Compton and 6:53 behind Kowalczyk. Katherine Calder from New Zealand finished in 56th. Aimee's back was better than for the 10km, and with a week now before the 30km hopefully she will be 100% for the last race.

Today we had pretty good grip wax and good skate skis, although it was a bit tight for time before the start after putting on the final touch of wax. Because GPS chips had to be added into the start numbers at ski marking there was a big queue, and Aimee had to run to get her skate skis into the exchange box and then to get onto the start line. She was still putting her poles on properly going up the first hill.

Tomorrow it could well be tricky waxing again. More snow is predicted and the temperature is meant to rise above zero in the early afternoon. Four men are racing, Ben Sim, Callum Watson, Chris Darlington, and Andrew Wynd. Callum had a minor stomach problem overnight but was feeeling good again during the day. With eight laps of 3.75km to be raced tomorrow it could be a challenge for some of our skiers to make the cut-off for the overlapping rule, as they will need to be skiing around 13-14% behind the winner to make it through.

February 20 Update - Men 15km Classic

Ben Sim had his best ever World Championship result today, finishing 51st out of 75 starters (or you could say 130 starters including the qualification race two days ago). Callum Watson was 68th and Andre w Mock 70th, on a day when ski selection and grip had a big impact on the result. Snow fell throughout the day, becoming slowly wetter, and many of the top skiers raced without wax on "hairy" based skis. All the Australians raced with wax, with mixed success. Simbo had pretty good skis, having to kick off snow at the top of some of the hills and stumbling onto his face twice when his skis grabbed on uphills. It was a good race for Ben, not sensational, but probably his best classic race this season. Callum had good grip, though spent more time trying to de-ice his skis over the top of the course. Mocky fared the worst, with restricted glide from balling up skis contributing to a tough day on the track. Percentage-wise Simbo was just under 10%, with Callum 17.3% and Mocky 19.6% behind the winner AndrusVeerpalu of Estonia.

After good skis on the first two competition days today certainly wasn't a great result for the waxing team. We tested hairies about 15 minutes before the start of the race and decided they didn't have enough grip. Many teams changed from wax to no-wax just before the start, but we weren't the only team to miss the boat. Notably the Swedish team all went with wax, while half of the Norwegian and German athletes also waxed and regretted it. The following quote was translated from the Swedish langd.se website:

"It was total chaos in our team 10 minutes before the start. Only five minutes before the start Andrus decided to go without wax," said the Estonian coach
"Neither Andrus or I had ever raced on "rubbed" skis before. It was a real chance and we were uncertain right to the last," said Jaak Mae, who placed 5th.

The snow is predicted to continue and there are two more days of classic waxing coming up with the pursuit events. Aimee Watson is our only competitor tomorrow in the women's 15km.

February 19 Update - Women 10km Classic

Aimee Watson finished 64th out of 72 today in the women's 10km Classic, 18.5% behind the winner Saarinen of Finland. It was a solid result for Aimee considering her injury over the past week. We hope now that she is able to recover well for the pursuit event coming up on Saturday. Aimee came home stronger than she started, negative splitting the second 5km lap with the 58th fastest time over the last kilometre. Former Australian athlete Katherine Calder had one of her best international results, finishing in 47th place 12.3% behind the winner.

Heavy snowfall is predicted for tomorrow, possibly making for interesting racing and wax conditions in the men's 15km Classic. The race jury decided to start the seeded group after the next 15 ranked athletes, which leaves the Australian skiers starting towards the end of the field rather than at the front. Ben Sim is number 60, Andrew Mock 67, and Callum Watson 70 out of the field of 75 starters. This could work to the advantage of our skiers if they are able to hang onto the seeded athletes who will be lapping as our athletes start. However it is uncertain how the new snow will impact on the speed of the track. Interesting times, may we live in them.

February 18 Update - Qualification Races

The opening races at the World Championships today were qualification events for the women's 10km and men's 15km interval start classic events. All skiers with FIS points over 120 for women and 90 for men had to compete, with the best 10 finishers eligible for the next races. It was a good day for the Australian team, with three out of five athletes qualifying. Esther Bottomley was up first in the 5km Classic and finished 9th out of the 21 starters, 1:40 behind the winner Morgan Smyth of the USA. Esther was happy with her race, though will not race the 10km as she is concentrating on the Sprint event coming up next Tuesday. There was a much larger field of 55 athletes in the men's 10km Classic. Andrew Mock finished 4th, Callum Watson 5th, Nick Grimmer 15th, and Chris Darlington 22nd. The guys featured extensively on the big screen and in the stadium commentary, in particular Nick who was in the top three in some of the earlier splits before the higher ranked athletes came through. Nick was 8th after the first 5km lap but was unable to finish with the same speed and dropped out of the top 10, just over two minutes behind the winner Xu Wenlong of China. Darlo had the toughest day, never really hitting his straps, and was 2:54 off the pace. Mocky and Callum were in contention for the top five most of the race, with Mocky still a chance for the podium in the last kilometre. At the end Mocky was 49 seconds back and Callum another 16 seconds behind, both with pretty good FIS points - 106 and 112.

The waxing team was quite satisfied with this first hit out. All skiers had positive feedback on their skis, which is pretty good on a day with variable amounts of snow falling and highly blown in tracks.

Tomorrow Aimee Watson takes on the 10km Classic. She has been gradually recovering from the lower back injury that kept her out of the World Cup last weekend, and though there is still some pain it is managable. Ben Sim will join Andrew Mock and Callum Watson for the 15km Classic the following day. Of the other athletes Andrew Wynd is getting ready for the Pursuit on Sunday, and Mark van der Ploeg has had some good training sessions in preparation for the sprint next week. Paul Murray unfortunately has been feeling really flat and tired, and is trying to turn his form and feeling around before the sprint. Mark Raymond arrives tomorrow.

Team Preview

The Australian Team for the 2009 World Championship in Liberec is now finalised. Eleven athletes have been selected to compete, backed up by a team of seven support staff. This is the largest eve r Australian Team to compete at a FIS World Championship, including several specialists within the team who may only compete in 1-2 events. The most experienced member of the team is 31 year old Paul Murray, who will be competing in his fifth World Championship. Murray's 31st place in the Classic Sprint in Oberstdorf 2005 is Australia's best ever at the cross country skiing World Championship. Esther Bottomley and Ben Sim have also competed in three World Championships each and have been competing regularly on World Cup since 2004.

Team performance goals for the championship included achieving a top 30 result and several results in the top half of the field. For some athletes the main aims are to gain experience and to achieve personal best results. Six athletes will make their World Championship debut in Liberec - Nick Grimmer, Chris Darlington, Aimee Watson, Mark Raymond, Mark van der Ploeg, and the youngest member of the team 19 year old Callum Watson. It will be Andrew Mock's third World Championship and Andrew Wynd's second.

Aimee Watson and Ben Sim are the main distance specialists of the team, the only two athletes directly qualified for the individual 10km and 15km Classic races on February 19 and 20. All other athletes wishing to race these events need to do the qualification races on February 18. The main individual race for Paul Murray, Esther Bottomley, and Mark van der Ploeg is the Freestyle Sprint on February 24. The starting places in the Team Sprint and Relay events for men will be determined during the championship.

The Competition Schedule


Australian Competitors


February 18
Women 5km Classic Qualification Race
(top 10 eligible for 10km Classic)

Esther Bottomley

9th/22 - Link to FIS results

February 18
Men 10km Classic Qualification Race
(top 10 eligible for 15km Classic)

Andrew Mock
Callum Watson
Nick Grimmer
Chris Darlington

4th/55 - Link to FIS results

February 19
Women 10km Classic

Aimee Watson

64th/72 - Link to FIS results

February 20
Men 15km Classic

Ben Sim
Andrew Mock
Callum Watson

51st/75 - Link to FIS results

February 21
Women 15km Pursuit

Aimee Watson

60th/75 - Link to FIS results

February 22
Men 30km Pursuit

Ben Sim
Callum Watson
Chris Darlington
Andrew Wynd

42nd/92 - Link to FIS results

February 24
Women Sprint Freestyle

Esther Bottomley

59th/96 - Link to FIS results

February 24
Men Sprint Freestyle

Paul Murray
Mark van der Ploeg
Andrew Mock
Nick Grimmer

57th/132 - Link to FIS results

February 25
Women Team Sprint Classic


Link to FIS results

February 25
Men Team Sprint Classic

Ben Sim
Mark van der Ploeg

19th/23 - Link to FIS results

February 26
Women 4 by 5km Relay


Link to FIS results

February 27
Men 4 by 10km Relay

Ben Sim
Callum Watson
Andrew Mock
Mark van der Ploeg

14th/15 - Link to FIS results

February 28
Women 30km Freestyle

Aimee Watson

53rd/63 - Link to FIS results

March 1
Men 50km Freestyle

Andrew Mock
Mark Raymond
Callum Watson
Chris Darlington

50th/68- Link to FIS results


Images from the 2009 World Championships

Paul Murray, Mark van der Ploeg and Andrew Mock after the sprint.

Mark van der Ploeg, Men Sprint

Ben Sim, Men 30km Pursuit

Aimee Watson, Women 15km Pursuit

Ben Sim, Men 15km Classic

Nick Grimmer, Men 10km Classic

Chris Darlington, Men 10km Classic

Callum Watson, Men 10km Classic

Aimee Watson, Women 10km Classic

Athlete Profiles

Aimee Watson
Born: 1987
Home Town: Cooma / Sydney
Performance History: 24th, 15km Freestyle, 2008 World U23 Championship. 36th, 15km Pursuit, Whistler World Cup 2009.
Potential events at Liberec: 10km Classic, 15km Pursuit, 30km Freestyle

Ben Sim
Born: 1985
Home Town: Cooma
Performance History: 19th, 15km Classic, 2008 World U23 Championship. 53rd, Pursuit, 2007 World Championship.
Potential events at Liberec: 15km Classic, 30km Pursuit, Classic Team Sprint, Relay

Callum Watson
Born: 1989
Home Town: Cooma
Performance History: 1st U20, Feutersoey Swiss Cup 2009. 2008 Australian Junior Champion.
Potential events at Liberec: 15km Classic, 30km Pursuit, Relay, 50km Freestyle

Chris Darlington
Born: 1982
Home Town: Jindabyne
Performance History: 2nd, 30km Classic, 2008 Australian Championship. 14th, 50km Freestyle, 2009 Konig Ludwig Lauf.
Potential events at Liberec: 15km Classic, 30km Pursuit, Relay

Esther Bottomley
Born: 1983
Home Town: Mt Beauty
Performance History: 21st, Freestyle Sprint, 2003 World Junior Championship. 43rd, Classic Sprint, Whistler World Cup 2009.
Potential events at Liberec: Freestyle Sprint, 10km Classic

Mark van der Ploeg
Born: 1985
Home Town: Mt Beauty
Performance History: 7th, Classic Sprint, 2009 Swiss Championship, 2006 Australian Sprint Champion
Potential events at Liberec: Freestyle Sprint, Classic Team Sprint, Relay

Andrew Mock
Born: 1982
Home Town: Porepunkah / Fairfield, Melbourne
Performance History: 5th, 50km Freestyle, 2009 Konig Ludwig Lauf. 2008 Australian Sprint Champion.
Potential events at Liberec: 15km Classic, Freestyle Sprint, Relay, 50km Freestyle

Nick Grimmer
Born: 1983
Home Town: Falls Creek
Performance History: 23rd Sprint Classic, St Ulrich OPA Cup 2008. 3rd, Freestyle Sprint, 2008 Australian Championship.
Potential events at Liberec: 15km Classic, Freestyle Sprint, Relay

Paul Murray
Born: 1977
Home Town: Mt Beauty
Performance History: 31st, Classic Sprint, 2005 World Championship. 38th, Classic Sprint, 2007 World Championship.
Potential events at Liberec: Freestyle Sprint, Classic Team Sprint

Mark Raymond
Born: 1979
Home Town: Alexandra
Performance History: Current Australian Biathlon Champion, 2005 Australian 30km Champion.
Potential events at Liberec: Relay, 50km Freestyle

Andrew Wynd
Born: 1979
Home Town: Ivanhoe, Melbourne
Performance History: 12th, 10km Freestyle, Snow Farm ANZ Cup 2008. 1st 2008 Stirling Silver.
Potential events at Liberec: 15km Classic, 30km Pursuit, Relay

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