Aussie skiers dom­i­nate sprint ti­tles

Mt Hotham Falls Creek - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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