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Australian Team Reports 2009/2010
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March 15 - Finally An Update!
February 10 - Late Canmore Report
WJC/U23 Championship Special
January 25 - Assorted Update
January 13 - BC Cup - NSW Junior Report
January 12 - OPA Cup Report
January 8 - Canada Junior Report #2
January 3 - Fischen Night Sprint
December 30 - Podium + Top 10s In Campra
December 28 - Bits From Canada
December 20 - Vancouver Selection Ranking
December 13 - Davos World Cups
December 6 - Goms Races
December 3 - Quick Ruka Postscript
November 28 - Not Quite Rocking In Ruka
November 21 - World Cup Points!
November 15 - Season Openers
November 13 - First Races Tomorrow
November 9 - Preparing For The Season



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Australian Team Reports 2009/2010

March 15 - Finally An Update!

In February the Winter Olympics took over everything and the internet updates here took a back seat. Hopefully regularly viewers were able to follow the Australian Team's progress via our Twitter updates and in more main-stream media back home. Finally now here is a brief update on the the past month, with the non-Olympic events first...

Phillips Wins Sapporo Ski Marathon, February 14
In the middle of February Belinda Phillips became the first Australian to win a Worldloppet event outside of Australia, the Sapporo Ski Marathon in Japan. Phillips romped it in, winning the 50km Freestyle event by four and a half minutes ahead of the second woman. The last Australian on the podium in the main distance of a Worldloppet event outside of Australia was Ben Derrick in second place in the Keskinada in Canada in 2000 (he was also second place in the 50km Freestyle at the Konig Ludwig Lauf in 2004 though the classic event at the Konig is considered the main event). Phillips made a return to the Australian Team for 2009/2010 after taking a step back from the national team after 2003.

Sim 11th in Engadin Ski Marathon, March 14
Ben Sim finished in 11th place in the Engadin Ski Marathon in Switzerland, the world's biggest freestyle ski marathon. Sim was only 16 seconds behind the winner, Olympic gold medalist and home favourite Dario Cologna, and was with the leaders almost all the way to the finish. A big pack stayed together for much of the race, Sim was in a breakaway after Pontresina but the pack came together again, and when the top 6 skiers finally broke away Sim initially went with them but couldn't hold on. Sprinting for the line he was just behind Jerry Ahlin of Sweden and just ahead of Thomas Freimuth from Germany. Coach Finn Marsland also competed and finished 299th, after breaking a pole and working too hard for 5km before receiving a replacement he was in the hurt box for the latter part of the race.

Murray in the Hurt Box in Vasaloppet, March 7
Paul Murray's mistake in the Vasaloppet, apart from not really training much in January/February, was to go with the lead pack for the first part of the race. In the top 150 up to the second drink station at Mangsbodarna and within a couple of minutes of the leaders (after nearly an hour and a quarter), Murray's elbows gave out at around the 35km mark, and though it was downhill from there for him unfortunately the track wasn't. Murray ended up in 740th place in the 90km race, having stopped at every drink station in the second half of the race to refuel enough to keep the body going.

Vancouver 2010
The short summary of the Winter Olympics for the Australian cross country skiers: Ben Sim raced well in all his events and was happy with his performances. Esther |Bottomley was disappointed with her result in the classic sprint but otherwise was satisified with her season and taking a big step forward in classic sprinting. Paul Murray was also disappointed with his races at the Olympics but had some consolation in the fact that he managed to get himself up to a level where he was able to give it his best shot after being out of form before Christmas and sick at the end of January. Results and quotes from each of the athletes are available on the Australian Olympic Committee website. More detailed reports will hopefully be ready for the next edition of Australian Cross Country News.

February 10 - Late Canmore Report

World Cup, Canmore, Canada, February 5-6
The Canmore World Cup was a great hit-out for the Australian Team in advance of the Winter Olympics. Paul Murray and Esther Bottomley recorded their best World Cup results of the season in the Classic Sprint, and in the 15km Freestyle Ben Sim had his best World Cup since his ground breaking opener in Beitostolen in December. All three Australian Olympic Team athletes seem to be hitting form at the right time. Aimee Watson also had a great race in the Classic Sprint scoring her best ever sprint result, while Chris Darlington made his World Cup debut in the 15km Freestyle.

Sim finished 46th in the 15km, 2:12 behind the winner Giorgio di Centa from Italy. Up until the 12km mark Sim was still in the top 40, but went under on the last lap and dropped time and places in the closing kilometres. After a solid training block Sim was happy that his form is going in the right direction. Darlington signed the list in 78th place, 6:42 off the pace, having a battle with Andy Pohl from New Zealand right up to the end. In the women's 10km Watson was 62nd, 5:00 behind Charlotte Kalla of Sweden.

In the sprint time trial Bottomley finished 40th, around 5.5 seconds outside of the top 30 and the head to head finals. Watson was only another 7 second back, in 54th place out of 63 starters. Bottomley was contemplating not starting because of a sore throat, but focussed well on the race after deciding to compete (luckily the sort throat was gone the next day). The time tiral and the final was won by Justyna Kowalczyk from Poland. In the men's time trial Murray and Sim were 1.5 seconds apart, in 46th and 50th place. Murray was 15.4 behind the fastest qualifier and race winner Emil Jonsson From Sweden. For Murray it was a great relief to be finding some race form just in time before the Winter Olympics, after an average World Cup season before Christmas and nearly two weeks of very limited training in Canada due to a cold. Sim's result was his best in a World Cup sprint, though he will not contest the event in Vancouver as it in between his main two events the 15km Freestyle and the 30km Pursuit.

The three Olympic athletes are now in Whistler preparing for the events coming up next week. Sim will be up first in the 15km on Monday February 15, with Bottomley and Murray racing two days later in the Classic Sprint. Reporting on this site will be very limited. For more information on the Australian Team performances in Vancouver look to the Australian Olympic site and even the Australian Team Facebook page which may have short updates and occasional pictures.

January 25 - Assorted Update

Due to technical difficulties there hasn`t been any updates here for nearly two weeks. In that time there`s been a little happening - including two podium results in FIS competition and selection for two major events. Read on!

German Cup, Hinterzarten, January 16-17
In her most impressive performance of the season so far Esther Bottomley won the German Cup Sprint in Hinterzarten on January 16. Bottomley was second in the time trial and after coming through the quarter-finals had to work very hard to make it through the semis. In the A-final she stormed from 4th place to first on the second hill and gapped the field going over the top of the course, and though Dabudyk from France and Grygorenko from Ukraine came back on the last hill Bottomley had enough of a lead to hold on in the finish straight. Ben Sim skied a great time trial to be 10th in the men`s sprint, with Mark van der Ploeg`s 20th place putting him in the same quarter-final. Unfortunately neither made it through to the semi-finals.

The next day in the distance classic races the waxing conditions were tricky. Some of the Australians went with zero skis and some with klister, but no-one really had a great day.

Swiss Championship, Marbach, January 14-16
Aimee Watson`s form took a big swing upwards at the Swiss Championship in Marbach. Watson picked up a bronze medal in the 10km Classic on January 14, behind Swiss skiers Silvana Bucher and Lucy Pichard. Two days later in the 10km Pursuit Watson raced well again except for a couple of falls, ending up 8th but just 4 seconds outside of 4th place.

World Junior / U23 Championship Selection
The 2010 World Junior / U23 Championship takes places in Hinterzarten in the Black Forest in Germany. The first races were today and reports and results and reports from the Australian Team will be posted on this WJC/U23 Special Page. The Australian U23 athletes were selected well in advance of the competition, with Aimee, Ewan and Callum Watson all qualifying from results in Europe last season. The Junior Team was confirmed after results over the last month, with Robert Jones joining Phillip Bellingham after good results in Swiss Cup competition. Paul Kovacs was with the team in Europe attempting to qualify however didn`t meet the FIS point qualification standard.

Australian Junior Team: Phillip Bellingham, Robert Jones
U23 Team: Aimee Watson, Ewan Watson, Callum Watson
Coaches: Fabian Mauz, Marc Frey
Support: Paul Kovacs, Dr. Olaf Schumacher

Vancouver Winter Olympic Selection
As expected from the World Cup selection races reported on December 20 three Australian skiers have been selected to the Australian Team for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. Ben Sim, Esther Bottomley and Paul Murray are now in Silver Star in Canada undergoing their final preparation for the games. The chance of a fourth quota place becoming available for Australia now seems very remote, as Australia`s next quota place is at number 54 on the FIS allocation list and most likely only 20 or so places will be re-allocated.

January 13 - BC Cup - NSW Junior Report

The NSW Ju nior Team travelled to West Kelowna over the weekend of 9th and 10th January to compete in BC's Premier Junior series of races called the BC Cup. This is a series of three races covering both sprint and distance races, interval and mass start and freestyle and classic technique. BC Cup 1 races included a distance classic interval start and a distance freestyle mass start, where racers were allocated start positions in three arrowheads on a random draw basis.

Ten NSW racers lined up to start racing over the weekend, across varying age groups and distances ranging from 1.5km to 5km on Saturday and from 1.5km to 10km on Sunday. Each age group had an average of 30-40 racers starting and over 300 racers competed on each day of the weekend.

Darcie Morton was the first racer off the mark on both days in the Pee Wee girls age division and raced 1.5km on both days. Darcie raced well on Saturday in the Classic Interval race finishing 7th and on Sunday, despite starting 3rd last due to the random draw process, skied a tremendous race against racers much bigger than herself and finished 6th.

Matt Bull and Max Glanville skied next in the boys Pee Wee Division and like Darcie raced 1.5km. On Saturday in the Classic Interval race, Max and Matt had tremendous races with Max finishing 4th and Matt finishing 5th. On Sunday in the Freestyle Mass start, Matt was drawn about 10 places ahead of Max in the arrowhead system and both boys skied tremendously to the end with Matt crossing the line 0.20 ahead of Max and in the race overall Matt finished 8th and Max 9th.

Damon Morton and Hamish Roberts lined up for the Midget Boys category and there is obviously something in the water in BC as some of these boys were bigger than Jackson Bursill! We are bottling the water and bringing it home for all NSW and Australian skiers!

Despite their size disadvantage, Damon and Hamish achieved some good results. In the 3.5km Classic Race on Saturday, Damon finished 6th and Hamish 8th. On Sunday and again racing 3.5km, Damon skied a great race and took the silver medal with Hamish also skiing well to finish in 6th. place.

Lachlan Porter competed well on the weekend finishing 7th on Saturday and then improving to 5th place for the freestyle race on Sunday. Lachlan probably had one of the toughest divisions on the weekend as it covered 95, 94 and 93 year of birth. However, the Canadian system does recognize the wide diversity in these age groups and groups JV1's ie 1995 year of birth together and Lachlan's results reflect his performance against those of his own age. Nevertheless, it was a tough competition as a number of these racers are obviously drinking lots of BC water and there was a wide variety of size in Lachlan's age group.

Lucy Glanville continued with her great results in Canada over this weekend. With a field of close to 40 girls in the Juvenile Girls division, Lucy was successful in winning both the Classic and Freestyle 5km races. These were good results for Lucy and it will be interesting to see how she goes in Europe as she now leaves the NSW Team in Canada to join Nick and Alex Almoukov in Germany and Italy at some World Cup Biathlon races before heading up to Sweden with Nick and Alex for World Biathlon Juniors at the end of January.

Jackson Bursill raced well over the weekend and finished 20th in his Classic 5km race on Saturday, and improved to finish 17th in the 5km Freestyle race on Sunday. Jackson continues to improve while here in Canada and his improving race results are reflecting his strong training ethic and focus.

Meredith Harvey and Laura Bull got back on the race track on Sunday and competed in the 5km Juvenile and 10km Junior freestyle races. Both girls eased themselves back into competition and it was a good training session for them with Meredith just back from a two week Xmas break and Laura finally recovering from her sore toe and effects of a cold.

NSW Skier Siobhan Jones also raced on the weekend for her Canadian Club Golden Nordics. Racing in the same age division as Lucy Glanville, Siobhan finished 5th in he 5km Classic and 8th in the 5km Freestyle. Siobhan has a few more months left in Canada, while our NSW Skiers will head home on Australian Day in order to be back in Australia for the start of the 2010 school year.

All in all it was a good weekend for the NSW racers and a fantastic experience for them and can only assist their XC skiing careers.

Cameron Morton
NSWXC and NSWIS XC and Biathlon Coach
With the NSWXC and Biathlon Juniors in Silver Star BC.

January 12 - OPA Cup Report

Ben Sim and Esther Bottomley cracked out another couple of good sprints in the OPA Cup in Oberwiesenthal in Germany last weekend. Bottomley qualified in 22nd place in the Freestyle Sprint event on Saturday then skied her way up to 10th place in the finals. Sim qualified in 12th place then was 4th in his quarterfinal. The next day in the distance events Ben Sim was the outstanding Australian athlete with 14th place in the 15km Classic. Conditions were chilly, with temperatures around -10 boosted by a cool wind across the top of the

Bottomley was 16 seconds off the pace in the 1.1km time trial but it was her quarter-final performance that was most impressive. Turning into the finish straight in 4th place out of six athletes Bottomley switched on a blistering sprint that nearly caught all three competitors ahead of her. Just 0.3 seconds separated the top four, all of whom had a faster time than the winner of the other four heats. Consequently qualifying for the semi-final on time, Bottomley outsprinted a Swiss athlete in the semi-final to secure her second ever OPA Cup top 10. In the men's 1.3km time trial Sim was 7.3 seconds back, with Mark van der Ploeg the next Australian 13 second back and outside the top 30. Callum Watson was 21 seconds off the pace and Ewan Watson 27 seconds. In the junior men's time trial Phillip Bellingham was 31 seconds behind the fastest junior man, with Paul Kovacs and Robert Jones a further five second back. Sim was up there fighting all through his quarter-final but couldn't pull out something extra down the finish straight to make it through to the semis, and ended up 18th overall in the count-back. The A-final winners were Daria Gaiazova from Canada and Fulvio Scola from Italy.

In the women's 10km Classic on Sunday Aimee Watson and Esther Bottomley were 29th and 33rd, 2:21 and 2:28 behind the winner Laurence Rochat of Switzerland. It was a solid race from both skiers without being exceptional. Sim started out conservatively for the first lap of six in the men's 15km Classic, sitting back in 26th place on the time splits, then steadily worked his way up to 14th place 1:21 behind the winner Dietmar Noeckler from Italy. It was a strong performance and though Sim was disappointed not to be higher up the list he has been in a solid volume training block since Christmas. Callum Watson skied a fast last lap to jump up from 49th place to 45th, 3:26 off the pace. Mark van der Ploeg started fast with splits close to Callum Watson then faded through the middle of the race to end up in 55th place 4:32 back, with Ewan Watson in 60th place 5:41 behind. Van der Ploeg and Ewan Watson's FIS points of 116 and 138 were their best distance points of the season so far.

In the junior men's 10km Classic Phillip Bellingham and Robert Jones finished 41st and 44th, 3:46 and 4:36 behind the winner, with FIS points of 180 and 204 respectively. While the points weren't as good as their races in the Swiss Cup in Campra they were still only around 12.5-15% behind the best central European skiers likely to be competing at the World Junior Championship in two weeks' time.

The next race for all these skiers will be the German Cup events in Hinterzarten next weekend.

January 8 - Canada Junior Report #2

It was a great day at the races for the NSW Junior XC Team on Sunday 3rd January at the Zone 2 BC Winter Games Trials held at the Larch Hills XC Ski Club at Salmon Arm. The races were a Classic selection race for the Zone 2 BC Winter Games with 107 athletes competing across age groups from 5yrs to 18yrs.

A team of seven NSW racers lined up to race with Laura Bull unfortunately being unable to start due to a sore toe, Lachlan Porter opting to stay at the team house for the day due to an upset stomach and Meredith Harvey still away on her Xmas break. Racers went off at 15sec internals and Darcie Morton was the first NSW racer to start. Darcie finished a very commendable 9th out of 14 racers despite being the youngest racer in the age group.

Next off were Max Glanville and Matt Bull. Matt finished 4th and Max finished 6th in the Mini Midget Category. It was a great result for Max as it was his first XC race ever. Darcie, Matt and Max all skied 3kms.

Damon Morton and Hamish Roberts performed well in the Junior Boys 5km classic race. Despite skiing against skiers much bigger than himself, Damon showed how important technique is and finished 3rd, with Hamish finishing 4secs behind in 5th place. Jackson Bursill, skiing in his first race overseas race in the Junior Boys division and against skiers almost 18mths older than himself, performed credibly to finish in 6th place.

The best result of the day probably came from Lucy Glanville in the Juvenile Girls category. Lucy's race was 5km and she came in 1st, 1.37mins ahead of 2nd place. Lucy's winning margin was the greatest of the day and earned her a comment from the medal presenter of winning in "a blistering time".

It was a great day at the races for the NSW juniors and it will be interesting to see how they continue to perform this weekend when they line up against the best XC skiers in BC at BC Cup No 1.

Cameron Morton
NSWXC and NSWIS XC and Biathlon Coach
With the NSWXC and Biathlon Juniors in Silver Star BC.

Report Post Script from Toni Hulme

Just a couple of extra things that Cameron did not mention in this report!

Congratulations must go to Cameron for his great teaching skills as Max Glanville had only being classic skiing for 4 days prior to this race! And after dealing with the seven athletes, Cameron then lined up for the 10km Classic Fun race and was comfortably eating his lunchtime sandwich when 2nd place crossed the line!

January 3 - Fischen Night Sprint

Not everything went to plan for the Australian Team at the Fischen Night Sprint in Germany on Saturday January 2nd. The main hiccup was the ridiculous amount of traffic on just about every road between Seefeld in Austria and Fischen on the Saturday afternoon. The planned two hour drive took five and half hours, resulting in the team van arriving half an hour after the start of the race. The athletes arriving from Switzerland (Esther Bottomley, Phillip Bellingham, Robert Jones, Paul Kovacs, and Ewan Watson) were all there on time, however there was no coach to do wax testing and Bottomley had to scrape a pair of training skis to race on. The race organisers and the Technical Delegate were incredibly accommodating and allowed the late athletes (Ben Sim, Mark van der Ploeg and Callum Watson) to do their time trial just before the junior finals started, although the three guys had no time to warm up or to see the course. The course was short, with the fastest man skiing it in 1:30 and the fastest woman in 1:43.

So how did the Australians fare? Bottomley qualified in 7th place, 6 seconds back from fastest woman Lucia Anger from Germany. Van der Ploeg scraped into the finals in 16th place 7 seconds off the pace of Andreas Waldmeier of Switzerland, Sim just missed out in 18th place 9 seconds back. Bellingham skied well to be the next Australian 12 second behind, just ahead of Ewan Watson and Callum Watson, with Kovacs and Jones a bit further back. All the U20 juniors raced in the open class so only Bottomley and van der Ploeg made the finals. In the semi-final Bottomley overbalanced at the start and propped herself up with a pole just as all the others started. Last out of the start and with limited chances to overtake she went for it down the finish straight but ended up 4th in her heat and 7th overall. Van der Ploeg was closer in the start but was still in 4th place round the first corner, and though he was in contact all the way to finish was unable to overtake down the straight.

Luckily the traffic died down for the trip back to Seefeld.

December 30 - Podium + Top 10s in Campra

Swiss Cup, Campra, December 29-30
It was a good couple of days of racing for the Australian Team at the Swiss Cup in Campra. In the Classic Sprint Esther Bottomley scored her first podium of the season, Ben Sim scored his best ever FIS sprint points and ended up 6th after narrowly missing out on the A-final, and Mark van der Ploeg scored his best sprint points of the season. In the Classic 10km and 15km events Sim, Bottomley and Aimee Watson all made the top 10, and Australian Junior Team skiers Phillip Bellingham and Robert Jones both qualified for the World Junior Championship in their first FIS race in Europe.

Bottomley was second in the sprint time trial, less than a second behind Laurien Van Der Graaff of Switzerland, then skied strongly through the finals to take third place behind Bettina Gruber and Van der Graaff. Bottomley's 71 FIS points were her best ever in a classic sprint and underline the step she has taken forward this winter. Aimee Watson skied well in the quarter-final after falling in the time trial, skiing up to take third place in her heat and 12th place overall. Former Australian athlete KT Calder was knocked out in the semis and ended up 5th overall. Sim and van der Ploeg qualifying for the finals in 7th and 13th place, scoring 68 and 107 FIS points respectively. Sim fought hard to make it through the quarter finals and then again to nearly make it to the final, finishing third in his semi-final right behind the first two skiers. Van der Ploeg was third in his quarter-final to move up to 12th place overall. Callum and Ewan Watson missed out on the finals in 21st and 22nd place, while Bellingham, Jones and Paul Kovacs also fell short of the junior finals. The men's A-final was won by Valerio Leccardi of Switzerland (who also won the Australian Sprint championship last winter).

Aimee Watson had some bad luck in the women's 10km Classic, having her pole broken by one of the junior men soon after starting her second lap. She received a replacement pole from the Spanish coach, then skied on to take 8th place just over two minutes behind the Swiss winner Seraina Boner. Bottomley had a good race to take 9th place 18 seconds behind Watson. , the two Australian women scoring FIS points of 102 and 109, Bottomley's first time under 120 in a distance event and Watson's second best this season. Bellingham, Jones and Kovacs acquitted themselves well in the junior men's 10km Classic, finishing 33rd, 35th and 42nd out of 51 starters, with Bellingham 3:34 behind the winner Jonas Baumann. Baumann won a junior OPA Cup race last season and was 11th in the 10km Classic at the 2008 World Junior Championships. Bellingham and Jones' FIS points of 159 and 162 were under the Australian Team qualifying standard of 195 points for the 2010 World Junior Championship, which take place in Hinterzarten in Germany at the end of January.

In the men's 15km Sim felt tired early on but dug deep to move up to 5th place in the last 5km and hold on to the finish. Sim was caught from behind by the eventual 1st and 2nd placed skiers Remo Fischer and Thomas Diezig, but then only lost another 29 seconds to Fischer to end up 1:29 off the pace. Callum Watson also struggled early on but pushed through the barrier of wanting to pull out and skied his way up to 13th place, just over two minutes behind Sim. Callum's FIS points of 89 will also help his average. Ewan Watson in his first race of the season after arriving in Europe a week ago finished 21st, and though he also found the race tough was reasonable happy with the result after such a short time on snow.

Most of the Olympic Squad are now in Seefeld in Austria, with the exception of Paul Murray who is in Sweden and Bottomley who is spending New Year's Eve back in Davos in Switzerland. Ewan Watson and the juniors have stayed on in Campra together with the British Junior Team.

Campra Sprint Podium - Van der Graaff, Gruber, Bottomley - December 2009

December 28 - Bits From Canada

Canmore 50km Classic, December 23
Last week the Canadian Olympic Team 30 / 50km classic selection events were held at Canmore , where Chris Darlington is living during this northern winter. Darlo said "It was a tough day out. The race was 10 laps of possibly the hilliest course I've ever raced on. I paced it conservatively and was happy that I held it together technically and managed to ski in the tracks the entire race. It was good fun to do a 50km interval start race, as just about every long race held in the past decade are now mas start."

Darlo finished in 20th out of a small but strong field of 28 men. Brian McKeever won the men's race and Madeleine Williams won the womens 30km event. Andrew Pohl from New Zealand skied a strong race finishing in 17th place, especially considering he experienced a fustrating equipment issue when the sole of his right boot nearly fell off and he had to stop and replace his boot when a coach handed him a replacement.

Full results can be found at the Zone 4 Website

NSW Juniors Begin Racing in Silver Star
NSWXC and NSWIS coach Cameron Morton is currently in Silver Star BC, Canada training and racing with 10 NSW Juniors, including Australian Junior Team members Lucy Glanville, Jackson Bursill and Laura Bull. The team has been training hard with lots of focus on technique work.

Juniors Lucy Glanville, Meredith Harvey and Lachlan Porter had their first weekend of racing at the NorAms at Sovereign Lake on 12/13 Dec. They were joined by senior Australian racer Chris Darlington, who had come across from Canmore where he is working and training.

It was an interesting challenge for the juniors who were still adjusting to the cold and altitude after having been in Silver Star for just over a week. Nevertheless, they took up the challenge and achieved some promising results in what was their first overseas racing experience.

Meredith and Lachlan raced well in the Juvenile Girls and Boys competition with Meredith achieving a 16th position out of 22 starters in the 5km freestyle and 17th out of 25 starters in the Freestyle Sprint time-trial, qualifying her for the quarter-finals where unfortunately she was grouped in the same heat as Lucy. Lachlan found the racing a little tougher being the younger age of a three year age grouping, but still enjoyed and learned from the experience and put the race training to good use at Canmore the following week at a Calforex Cup biathlon race.

Lucy Glanville skied to a pleasing 20/38 in the 10km Junior (up to 20yrs) Freestyle event. Lucy was one of only three 1994 born racers in the field, as the Canadians have adopted a new racing model whereby they recognise the earlier development of female XC racers and permit the elder of their Juvenile Division (14/15yrs) to races as Juniors if appropriate. In finishing 20th Lucy finished ahead of some 18 Canadian and US juniors all older than herself. Lucy commented that she felt the altitude about half-way though the race and the mid part of the race was tough, but rallied to finish strongly.

In the Sprints Cameron opted for Lucy to revert back to her age group (as did the other 1994 racers) to race the Juvenile event. Lucy achieved 4th place in the time-trial and then maintained this form to finish 4th in the A final. It was a good result for Lucy, said Cameron, as she closed the gap quite significantly on the 3 racers in front of her in the A Final as opposed to the Time-Trail. It should be interesting to see how she goes in a number of upcoming races as she gets into a training rhythm and acclimatises better.

The next series of races are the BC Winter Games Trials and BC Cup No 1. These weekends of racing are followed by a more relaxed Citizen Classic Loppet event at Salmon Arm on the weekend of 16 January. The team is now focused on some strong training sessions with the local Sovereign Lake juniors and some upcoming time trails amongst themselves.

Cameron wishes to express his great thanks to Chris Darlington for his fantastic assistance with the Juniors over the 4 days of the NorAms. Chris bunked in with the team. and not only cooked, mentored and skied with the team, but also assisted with waxing and team captain meetings. Come back anytime Darlo!

More news to follow in the new year after the next weekend of racing.

Cameron Morton
With the NSW Junior XC Team in Silver Star BC.

December 20 - Vancouver Selection Ranking

World Cup, Rogla, Slovenia, December 19-20
Distance Races
Ben Sim had one o f his best ever World Cup classic races on Sunday, finishing 43rd in the 30km Classic mass start in Rogla in Slovenia. Sim was in the lead pack for the first three 2.5km laps then dropped off as the pace picked up into the first intermediate sprint. Through the middle of the race he skied up past other skiers who had dropped off the pack before finishing the last 7.5km solo to end up just over five minutes behind the winner Petter Northug from Norway. Callum Watson put in a great effort in the same race to make it through to the 23km mark before he was overlapped by the lead pack and had to withdraw. With a large numbers of skiers being overlapped or withdrawing Callum ended up ranked 51st, his best World Cup place even though he recieves no FIS points as an overlapped skier. Watson skied most of the race with the sole Slovenian skier, ensuring that he received a lot of crowd attention. The temperature was around -14 for most of the race and it was a tough race with the men having to ski up the major climb 12 times on the the short loop.

In the women's 15km Classic Aimee Watson finished 61st out of 66 starters, eight minutes behind the winner Justyna Kowalczyk from Poland. It wasn't a great race from Aimee and she was disappointed with the result. She skied much of the race see-sawing back and forth with Johansen from Slovakia, with Slovak pulling away on the downhills and Aimee coming back on the uphills.

Sprint Races
Esther Bottomley scored her best classic World Cup result in Rogla, finishing 44th out of 61 starters in the Classic Sprint. Conditions were challenging with snow falling steadily and strong winds, however Bottomley stepped up to her best result of the season. Bottomley was 25 seconds behind the fastest qualifyer Kowalczyk, which would normally be a large time gap however with this course the winner's time was 4:10 and all the times were spread out. 30th place was over 16 seconds behind, when the last qualifier for the finals is normally around 10-12 seconds. Bottomley raced on German skier Claudia Kuenzel's skis, having arranged with the Atomic service team to test Kuenzel's second pair after she had selected her best pair.

Things weren't so rosy for the Australian men in the Classic Sprint. Paul Murray was 66th and Mark van der Ploeg 68th from 69 starters. Both athletes found it hard going on the long course, with Murray 26 seconds and van der Ploeg 35 seconds behind the fastest qualifier Andy Newell from the USA. While Murray is likely to make it onto the team for Vancouver because of his performance in Stockholm in March, he has been racing well below his normal standard all winter so far and will need a big turn around in form if he is to reach his goal of making the Olympic Sprint finals.

Vancouver Selection Ranking
The Rogla World Cup events this weekend were the final cross country skiing benchmark events for selection for Vancouver 2010. While the Australian Team selection process is not final until the middle of January and the cross country ranking list is not official yet, the unofficial ranking list below shows the best results of all athletes in the Shadow Olympic Team. The results are compared by percentage place in the starting field - finishing in 40th from a field of 80 starters means a percentage of 50.00.

30.00% - Ben Sim (Beitostolen 15km Freestyle, November 2009)
43.30% - Paul Murray (Stockholm Sprint Classic, March 2009)
72.13% - Esther Bottomley (Rogla Sprint Classic, December 2009)
75.00% - Callum Watson (Rogla 30km Classic, December 2009)
88.52% - Aimee Watson* (Lahti 10km Freestyle, March 2009)
95.83% - Nick Grimmer (Trondheim Sprint Classic, March 2009)
96.70% - Mark van der Ploeg (Kuusamo Sprint Classic, November 2009)

*Aimee Watson needs one more result under 100 FIS points to reach the Vancouver A-Qualifying Standard. The other six athletes have already met the A Standard.

Currently the Australian quota for cross country skiing is three athletes, including one of each gender. This quota is based on FIS world rankings and will be finalised between January 18 and January 24. There is a small chance that the Australian quota could go up to four athletes depending most likely on the rankings of Bottomley and Sim. 

December 13 - Davos World Cups

World Cup, Davos, Switzerland, December 12-13
Sprint Races
Mark van der Plo eg and Esther Bottomley started to find some sprint form today in the World Cup in Davos, however for Paul Murray a good race this season remained elusive. Van der Ploeg's 80th place from 99 starters in the Davos Freestyle Sprint was his best World Cup result, Murray's 95th place was definitely not. Bottomley's 62nd place from 77 starters was a step in the right direction, her best World Cup in Europe since the 2006 season. The Davos sprint course was tough, 1.7km for men and 1.4km for women, with a long hill taking up the first half of the race. All three Aussies had to pace the race well to stop from going under before the top of the course. Van der Ploeg and Murray were 21 seconds and 28 seconds behind the fastest male qualifier Petukhov of Russia. Bottomley was 17 seconds behind the fastest female qualifier Follis from Italy. Dahl from Norway won the men's A-final, Majdic from Slovenia won the women's A-final.

Distance Races
Ben Sim had another strong result in the 15km Freestyle in Davos, finishing in 67th place 2:15 behind the winner Heikkinen from Finland. Sim started the race maybe a little fast, within 14 seconds of the top 30 after the first 5km, then found it tough through the middle of the race before latching on to another Finnish skier and skiing solidly with him to the finish. Callum Watson was 87th of the field of 93 starters, 4:56 behind Heikkinen. He too suffered through the middle of the race, going too hard on the second lap trying to hand onto a skier on their first lap. Aimee Watson was 77th out of 94 in the women's 10km Freestyle, 4:50 behind the winner Khazova from Russia (recently back on the circuit after a two-year doping ban). Aimee wasn't completely satisfied with her race, she felt she skied a lot better in the Swiss Cup the previous weekend.

Special thanks to Anthony Evans who joined the waxing/testing team for the Davos World Cup, and also to his wife Carla Zijlstra-Evans for her physiotherapy assistance.

The team will stay in Davos until Wednesday, then head to Slovenia for the final pre-Christmas World Cups in Rogla.

Aimee Watson and Mark van der Ploeg racing in Davos

The team in Davos: Anthony Evans (test pilot), Markus Walser (technician), Esther Bottomley, Callum Watson,
Aimee Watson, Mark van der Ploeg, Ben Sim, Paul Murray, Finn Marsland (coach).

December 6 - Goms Races

Swiss Cup, Obergoms, Switzerland, December 5-6
Aimee Watson achieved her best ever FIS points in the Goms Swiss Cup on Saturday December 5. Watson was 8th in the 5km Classic, 1:04 behind the winner Yulia Tchekaleva from Russia, scoring FIS points of 87.7. This was Watson's first race under 90 points, which gives her full qualification for World Cup. Esther Bottomley was close to Watson in the time splits after 3km but then her legs went under up the largest hill and she ended up 1:50 off the pace in 17th place - still however with reasonably good FIS points of 126.5. There was a strong international field in the women's event with Russians, Belorussians, Romanians, and a lot of Polish and Croatian juniors. Interestingly there was only one Swiss ahead of Watson and only four ahead of Bottomley. KT Calder skiing from New Zealand was 9th. Waxing conditions were relatively straight forward with blue stick variations common and the Australians were both happy with their skis.

The next day in the 10km Freestyle mass start Watson and Bottomley ended up in the same chasing group after 10 or so skiers went off the front. Watson was strong on the hills but Bottomley and others in their group were coming past on the downhills. Watson lead a group of five over the last hill, then Bottomley came past with momentum and won the group sprint for 13th place 2:18 behind the winner, with Watson overtaken on the line for 17th place 2:22 behind. Belorussian skiers took the top two places, KT Calder was 9th. Of interest again, only two Swiss skiers were ahead of Bottomley. In the 15km Freestyle Mark van der Ploeg finished 49th, 6:04 behind the winner Remo Fischer of Switzerland. Fischer left the field behind already after 1km, stretching the field apart quickly, and won by 50 seconds ahead of Slepov of Russia. Van der Ploeg had a bit of frustration similar to Watson with skis a little slower than skiers around him.

All of the Australian Team are now back in Davos, where the next World Cup events take place on December 12/13.

Mark van der Ploeg takes a corner in the 15km Freestyle in the Goms

December 3 - Quick Ruka Postscript

World Cup, Ruka, Finland November 29
All three Australians had pretty solid results in the distance races in Ruka last Sunday. Ben Sim finished 59th in the 15km Classic, and while that's not as exciting as the World Cup points the previous week the result underlined that he has stepped it up a notch this winter. Sim was 1:41 behind the winner Petter Northug of Norway, and 42 seconds outside of the top 30. Callum Watson scored his best World Cup result finishing 88th out of 98 starters in the 15km, with FIS points of 73.5 a new PB. Another milestone for Callum was that at 3:15 behind Northug he was under 10% behind the World Cup winner for the first time. Aimee Watson had her best result of the season so far, finishing 77th out of 85 starters in the 10km Classic and scoring FIS points of 122. All three were happy with their grip and the way that they skied.

The team is now in Davos in Switzerland, where snow fell just in time on Monday. Aimee Watson, Esther Bottomley and Mark van der Ploeg will travel to the Obergoms tomorrow for Swiss Cup races on the weekend, while the rest of the team will remain to train in Davos.

November 28 - Not Quite Rocking in Ruka

World Cup, Ruka, Finland November 28
Today's World Cup Classic Sprint in Ruka was nothing exciting to write home about. Esther Bottomley was 74th out of 79, Paul Murray and Mark van der Ploeg were 81st and 88th out of 91. All three were a little light on for grip. The wax was okay during testing but the track became a bit wetter after more traffic during the qualification and all three slipped at least a few times on the main hill back in the stadium. For the guys it was also apparent that they'd had to work harder to make their skis grip on the first hill and they were already more tired than they should have been before they hit the last hill. Bottomley was 27 seconds behind the fastest qualifier Aino-Kaisa Saarinen of Finland, while Murray and van der Ploeg were 24 and 30 seconds behind Emil Jonsson of Sweden. Justyna Kowalczyk from Poland won the women's A-final, Ola Vigen Hattestad from Norway won the men's A-Final.

A more personal view is available on Paul Murray's website: www.paulmurray.cc

Tomorrow the Ruka action continues with Aimee Watson racing the 10km Classic and Ben Sim and Callum Watson competing in the 15km Classic. Don't hold your breath for a post race report as the service team will be packing up mid-race for a quick departure as they begin the drive south to Switzerland. Look instead to the FIS site.

November 21 - World Cup Points!

World Cup, Beitostolen, Norway November 21
World Cup Points! You'd better believe it! Ben Sim became the second Australian cross country skier ever to score World Cup points, and the first to do it in a distance event. Sim finished 30th in the opening World Cup 15km Freestyle in Beitostolen in Norway, just 1:07 behind the winner Ronny Hafsaas of Norway. It was tight race - ten seconds quicker and he would have been 25th place, 5 second slower and he would have been 35th.

Conditions were fast, with rain overnight freezing and creating a track composed of ice and sugar. Sim started with bib number 31 and on the time splits was sitting around 30th place the entire race. With a kilometre and a half to go there were six skiers all with a chance of taking places 29 and 30, and Sim seized the opportunity to take one World Cup point. The feeling was that he had just missed out, so when the results appeared on the screen in the stadium and on the TV in the athletes' room the Australian Team reactions were such that spectators would be forgiven for thinking that Simbo had won the race. Paul Murray is the only other Australian to score World Cup points, he finished 29th and took two points in the Reit im Winkl sprint in 2005. For full results and to see all the big names behind Simbo look to the FIS site.

In the same race Callum Watson finished 94th out of the field of 100 starters. He was 3:46 behind Hafsaas, scoring personal best FIS points of 86.9, and was also ahead of one Norwegian which is always good.

Unfortunately not everything went to plan today. Aimee Watson struggled with the icy conditions in the 10km Freestyle and was frustrated and disappointed with her 85th place out of 91 starters. Aimee was 5:22 behind the winner Marit Bjorgen of Norway, who won by 30 seconds. Full results on the FIS site.

World Cup relays are on tomorrow in Beitostolen but instead the team will begin transit towards Kuusamo. The athletes will fly from Oslo and Stockholm (the sprinters in Sweden) on Monday, while the service team will drive through over the next two days. Special thanks to Duane Butcher for his waxing support for the Norwegian events, and also thanks and welcome to Markus Walser from Switzerland who has joined the service team from now until the World Cup in Rogla.

World Cup points on the big screen in Beitostolen!

November 15 - Season Openers

"Beitosprinten", Beitostolen, Norway, November 14-15
Ben Sim made a great start to the season with two impressive results in the Norwegian cross country premiere at Beitostolen in Norway. Sim was 36th in the 15km Freestyle on Saturday November 14, and then 42nd in the 10km Classic the next day. As any Australian that has raced in a Nowegian Cup before will know, the starting fields in Norway are just about as tough as they get outside of World Cup. In addition to the strong Norwegian fields the national teams of Switzerland, Slovakia, Japan, Italy and the USA were competing, plus also the Russian men's distance team. Sim's results caught the attention of spectators and other athletes in Beitostolen, and bode well for the World Cup coming up next weekend on the same track. He was 2:19 behind Petter Northug of Norway in the freestyle event and 2:17 behind Martin Sundby of Norway in the classic.

Aimee Watson and Callum Watson also had quite good opening races. Aimee was 57th out of 69 in the 10km Freestyle, and 55th out of 76 in the 5km Classic. The classic race was the better one, with Aimee 2:02 behind the winner Marit Bjoergen of Norway who was 23 seconds clear of second placed Kristin Steira. Callum finished 102nd and just under 15% behind the winner on both days, out of 117 starters in the 15km Freestyle, and from a field of 125 in the 10km Classic. His start in the classic was only confirmed the evening before the race, as the organisers bowed to pressure from Nowegian coaches to allow withdrawn athletes to be replaced.

Classic waxing for the Sunday races was a little tricky, with snow overnight and then rain during the morning. A lot of skiers went on micro-based skis, but there were also some racing on klister. Sim and Aimee Watson opted for the micro skis and were happy with their choice, while Callum Watson went for klister - his grip was very good but his glide was lacking a little. With one week now to the World Cup all three are reasonable satisified with their preparation.

Bruksvallsloppet, Bruksvallarna, Sweden, November 14-15
Difficult waxing predictions for Bruksvallarna came true on the weekend, and the Australians racing didn't quite nail it. In the men's Classic Sprint on Saturday November 14 most of the finalists opted to double pole on skating skis in the qualification, while Paul Murray, Mark van der Ploeg and Leon Spiller opted for classic wax. They ended up 40th, 58th and 92nd, not too bad out of a field of 92 starters but not where they wanted to be. Esther Bottomley qualified for the women's finals in 30th place, then after switching to skating skis and double poling her quarterfinal finished in 20th place. Similarly to the races in Norway there were many other national teams competing, including Canada, Poland, Czech, and China. Here's Paul Murray's report from the race.

Today's classic sprint in Bruks was a decent hitout for the three of us. With snow dumping down just before qualifying there was lots of talk the last few days of people double poling on skate skis. None of the Aussies backed themselves enough to double pole, but in the end it would have been the smarter option for today as grip wax was very slow and almost dragging on the downhills. Esther was the only one to make the finals in 30th place and opted to chance it and double pole her quater final. She smoked and ended up 4th in her heat. 20th overall. The final for the men were all duelled out on skating skis.

Mark Vandy, Leon Spiller and I all opted for grip. None of us made the finals. Only a handful of guys who made the top 30 used wax and all of them have previously been in a world cup final. Standing in start area it was evident that there were not many guys with wax. None the less the boys had a good workout. It wasn't the start we were looking for, but we'll have a chance to get some back in two weeks in Kuusamo. Tomorrow's race is a 15km skate for men, 10km skate for women.

Athlete Quotes.
Es " Wax skis were not ideal, so double poling the heats seemed like a good idea."

Mark "I did well considering 4 minutes of double poling is not my specialty"

Paul " Lucky I did all that double poling the last 6 months to use wax on my skis today..."

The next day in the freestyle distance races Mark VDP and Esther Bottomley had reasonably solid races, Mark finishing 4:45 behind the winner in the 15km Freestyle in 83rd place out of 140 odd, and Esther 4:10 behind the winner in the 10km Freestyle in 40th out of 67. Unfortunately Paul Murray lucked out with the skis again, finishing in 128th place in the 15km over eight minutes back. Not sure if it was the wax or the structure, but the glide wasn't good. What is good that all three are healthy and motivated for the World Cup sprint in Finland in two weeks' time.

November 13 - First Races Tomorrow

This weekend the Australian Team takes on competitions in two different countries. In Beitostolen in Norway Ben Sim, Aimee Watson and Callum Watson are racing in the "Beitosprinten", not a sprint event at all but the general Norwegian season opener with different races over three days. There are individual freestyle races tomorrow and classic races on Sunday. In Bruksvallarna in Sweden Paul Murray, Mark van der Ploeg and Esther Bottomley race a classic sprint tomorrow and distance freestyle races on Sunday. At both locations it is expected to snow in the morning, quite heavily in Norway. The classic waxing could be tricky. In Bruks the new snow will likely change the conditions from covered klister to straight stick, and the Aussie athletes there also have no-wax microbase skis ready just in case the snow comes in closer to zero than forecast. In Norway on Sunday the microbase skis will be ready as well, as it it forecast to snow/rain just above zero. Interesting times, may we live in them!

For those impatient for reports, try these links:

Beitostolen Results
Bruksvallarna Sprint Results
Bruksvallarna Distance Results
Bruksvallarna Live Web Sending

With the Beitosprinten events there is a limit on the starting field because of the live TV sending, based on FIS rankings. Only the 128 highest ranked men and 80 women are allowed to start. Unfortunately Callum Watson just missed the cut for the men's 10km Classic on Sunday, by one place! Though it may be that some athletes will withdraw due to illness or other reasons before Sunday the organisers say the lists are now final. Callum is extra fired up for the freestyle race now.

Aimee Watson, Callum Watson, and Ben Sim unaware of the
treacherous drive to Norway that was to follow the next day.

Esther Bottomley and Mark VDP contemplating stealing the Swedish Team van.

November 9 - Preparing For The Season

It is early November and the Australian Team has already been on snow in Europe for over a week. Six athletes are holed up in a house in Bruksvallarna in Sweden, about 8 hours by car north-west of Stockholm not far from the Norwegian border (see map below). Snow conditions are very good in Bruksvallarna, and several other national teams have been arriving over the last week including from Slovakia, Poland, Canada, and strangely enough the Swedish team is here too. Paul Murray, Esther Bottomley, Aimee Watson, Callum Watson, Ben Sim and Mark van der Ploeg are all members of the Australian cross country Olympic Squad, and most likely three of these will represent Australia at Vancouver in February 2010. Nick Grimmer who has also been named to this squad has decided to remain home in Australia for the summer, although he will be on the first plane out of Melbourne if his performances from last March are good enough for him to be selected for Vancouver.

Mark VDP, Callum Watson, Esther Bottomley, and Ben Sim in Bruksvallarna

On Thursday November 12 the team will split up, with Sim and the two Watsons heading to Norway to race on the weekend in Beitostolen, where the opening World Cup will take place on November 21. Murray, Bottomley and van der Ploeg will remain in Bruksvallarna to race the Swedish Cup classic sprint and freestyle distance events and then train for a week before heading to Kuusamo in Finland for the first World Cup sprint. World Cup competition for the Australian Team will continue in December with Davos in Switzerland and Rogla in Slovenia, and then on December 20 the ranking list for Olympic selection will be finalised.

The atmosphere amongst the team is good. Bottomley and Aimee Watson have been having some minor injury issues, otherwise everyone is fit and healthy. Bottomley has been a little stressed writing essays for university, however in a week her studies will finish for the year with a ceremonial book burning.

The Team Email reports which started last season will recommence again soon. If you would like to be added onto the mailing list please send an email to finn.marsland at gmail.com. Insight into some of the team activities can also be found on Paul Murray's website www.paulmurray.cc

B is for Bruksvallarna View Larger Map

Oh, and if you are bored because team updates are not coming fast enough, you can try out these World Cup quizzes, Cross Country Distance 2009 and Cross Country Sprint 2009. The general consensus amongst the team in Bruks is that the distance one is easier than the sprint.