Aussie skiers dominate sprint titles
AUSTRALIAN skiers dominated the 2015 Australian Championships for Cross Country Skiing at Falls Creek on August 15 – 16.
Three out of four victories was claimed by Australian cross country skiers against international competitors from Sweden, Slovenia, Switzerland, Finland and Estonia.
The competitions were organised by the Birkebeiner Nordic Ski Club on behalf of Ski and Snowboard Australia, and also counted as stages three and four of the eight-stage FIS Australia-New Zealand Cup.
Internationals Maria Graefnings from Sweden and Kein Einaste from Estonia posted the fastest qualification time’s for Saturday’s Classic Sprint qualification, however things didn’t go their way during the final rounds with Victoria’s Katerina Paul and Philip Bellingham taking out first place.
2015 Australian Junior Champion Paul stormed up the first hill and broke away from Graefnings, Slovenia’s Barbara Jezersek and fellow Victorian Casey Wright, but Graefnings and Jezersek made up some ground and gave Paul a run for her money in the final straight.
However Paul managed to hang on and win her first Open Australian Championship by just centimetres in a photo-finish.
The men’s Classic Sprint saw a number of top competitors double poling on skating skis all the way through, however local Falls Creek skier Bellingham opted for an alternative and ultimately winning strategy.
Bellingham kept his arms and skate skis fresh by using classic skis and wax thorugh the qualification and early final rounds and only switched to double poling for the A-final against Einaste, NSWIS skier Callum Watson and Switzerland’s Valerio Leccardi.
Bellingham came from behind with fast skis on the downhill sections and seized the lead from Einaste with 200m to go and held on in the straight by about a ski length.
Sunday’s Freestyle events saw skiers race against the clock, starting at 30 second intervals.
In the women’s event, Jezersek held a 10 second lead over Graefnings after the first 5km lap and then extended it on the second lap to win the 10km Freestyle by 35 seconds and Victoria’s Casey Wright came in third place.
In the men’s 15km Freestyle event Bellingham managed to catch Callum Watson from 30 seconds behind and Eric Storvall from Finland from one minute behind after the 5km mark.
Bellingham and Watson worked together and extended their lead over Storvall and picked up fellow World Cup team skier Paul Kovacs.
On the final lap, Bellingham was challenged by Leccardi and Watson and managed to hold on for the win by 13 seconds.
Bellingham’s victories pushed him into the lead ahead of Callum Watson in the FIS Australian – New Zealand Continental Cup.