De­spite an in­flux of in­ter­na­tional skiers this year’s 26th Kan­ga­roo Hop­pet has a wide open field Aussie’s best hope of top­ping the Hop­pet

Mt Hotham Falls Creek - - FRONT PAGE -

FALLS Creek will be a win­ter won­der­land of cross coun­try ski ac­tion on the last Sun­day in Au­gust when the ski world comes to­gether for Aus­tralia’s largest an­nual snows­ports event, the 26th Kan­ga­roo Hop­pet.

Over 1000 cross-coun­try skiers from elite su­per­stars to as­pir­ing be­gin­ners, will click into a pair of skinny skis and line up at the Hop­pet start in Falls Creek Nordic Bowl, along­side ski friends from 26 coun­tries.

In a big day of rac­ing the Hop­pet of­fers a unique com­bi­na­tion of toplevel sport­ing com­pe­ti­tion and great fam­ily fun.

Whether it takes two hours or six hours, the Kan­ga­roo Hop­pet pro­vides a unique op­por­tu­nity to ski the Bo­gong High Plains of Vic­to­ria’s Alpine Na­tional Park, on groomed trails.

Race Di­rec­tor, Ben Der­rick ex­plained that the Kan­ga­roo Hop­pet brings to­gether a world­wide fam­ily of ski friends.

“Be­ing part of the World­lop­pet se­ries of 20 cross-coun­try ski races, the Kan­ga­roo Hop­pet at­tracts an in­creas­ing num­ber of over­seas skiers want­ing to do some­thing they love, in a new and dif­fer­ent alpine land­scape,” Der­rick said.

“What bet­ter way to see the world on skis and be wel­comed in an at­mos­phere of per­sonal chal­lenge, fam­ily fun and ca­ma­raderie.

“It’s about mak­ing life­time friends do­ing a life­time sport.” Der­rick said.

The course starts and fin­ishes in the Falls Creek Nordic Bowl, with three loops ex­tend­ing out onto the Bo­gong High Plains and into the Alpine Na­tional Park: 42km Kan­ga­roo Hop­pet, 21km Aus­tralian Birke­beiner and 7km Joey Hop­pet.

Der­rick said with last year’s win­ner and Hop­pet reg­u­lar Va­le­rio Lec­ca­rdi stay­ing home in Davos this year, the time is right for an Aus­tralian to take out the event for the first time since Ben Sim topped the podium in 2009.

“And lo­cals reckon that we have just the man in Phil Belling­ham, last year’s run­ner up. Phil has been back in Aus­tralia for some months since the last north­ern hemi­sphere sea­son and is liv­ing and train­ing up at Falls Creek,” he said.

“When con­sid­er­ing the in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion at this year’s Hop­pet, we need look no fur­ther than mem­bers of the Sun Val­ley Ski Ed­u­ca­tion Foun­da­tion Gold XC Team who will be based at Falls Creek dur­ing Au­gust for a four week train­ing camp which will in­clude tak­ing part in the FIS Con­ti­nen­tal Cup races on Au­gust 19/20 and fin­ish with the Hop­pet.

“The lead­ing man in the team is Matt Gelso.

“The lead­ing Aus­tralian con­tenders for the women’s podium places are Sochi Win­ter Olympian Aimee Wat­son, and Ka­te­rina Paul who looks like mak­ing the move up to the main race af­ter win­ning last year’s Aus­tralian Birke­beiner.

“As for the two Aus­tralian ladies who were on the podium last year with Swe­den’s Maria Graefn­ing, Casey Wright will cer­tainly not be here this year, hav­ing taken up a coach­ing po­si­tion in Alaska, and while Es­ther Bot­tom­ley has been seen en­joy­ing the ski­ing at Falls Creek, she tells us that she has re­tired from rac­ing.”

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