Cross Country 2016-2017
THE 2016-20172016- 2017 northern winter was a big season for the Australian XC Ski Team. While we are still dreaming of the results achieved by the other Ski & Snowboard Australia disciplines (Britt Cox, amazing), a number of milestones were passed that deliver a lot of hope for the future.
A really positive aspect of the season was the breadth of events contested and the number of athletes involved. Throughout the season Australian teams raced at the World Championships in Finland, the World Junior/U23 Championships in the USA, the World Universiade Winter Games in Kazakhstan, the Asian Games in Japan, and World Cups in Switzerland, Germany, Italy, South Korea, Estonia, Sweden, Norway and Canada.
The team also competed at continental cups, national championships and national cup races in most of these countries and more. On one weekend alone in January, AUSXC athletes competed in eight different nations on three continents (not counting anyone back in Australia).
Two highlights during the season were team efforts, which are not as common in what is mostly an individual sport. The 4 by 5km relay team of Jessica Yeaton, Aimee Watson, Barbara Jezersek and Kat Paul was the first relay team of either gender to finish at the World Championship since 1993, a task that has become increasingly harder due to short laps and the risk of being lapped out.
A All four athletes gave it their all on the day to get the team across the line in 14th place. At the Junior World Championship, the boys’ team of Liam Burton, Seve de Campo, Jarrah Forrer and Matt Bull were the first relay team to be entered since 1995, and they also did their country proud, finishing in 15th.
Prior to this season Australia had 3 individual World Cup points to our name, scored by Paul Murray in 2005 (2) and Ben Sim in 2009 (1). Now we have a total of 9, thanks to Jessica Yeaton (8) and Aimee Watson (1) in the PyeongChang test event, with Jess’s 24th place in the 15km Skiathlon, which is now AUSXC’s best ever individual World Cup place.
Twenty-fourth is also now Australia’s best result at the Nordic World Championship, courtesy of Barbara Jezersek in the 15km Skiathlon on Lahti. Collectively the team picked up one top 30, two top 40s (Barbara and Jess), three top 50s (Phil, Barbara and Jess), and just about everyone racing at the Worlds scored a personal best result.
The last milestone to report on this season is from the Asian Games in Sapporo, where Australia competed as a guest nation for the first time. Casey Wright stunned the field to win the Sprint qualification, and then went on to finish in 3rd place in the A-final, the best result for the Australian Team at the games. Technically it wasn’t a podium, but we are claiming it. Today an Asian Games podium, tomorrow the World.
◆ RACING: Casey Wright (above) returned a great result at the Asian Games in Sapporo to finish third in the A final. ◆ PODIUM FINISH: Kat Paul (right) on the podium at one of the XC championships held over the northern hemisphere winter.