The 2012 Australian Open and Junior Championships for cross country skiing finished up this weekend August 18-19 at Falls Creek. The races were also part of the FIS Australia – New Zealand Cup (ANC) and a high quality international field was in attendance, with athletes competing from Russia, Czech, Sweden and Venezuela.
In the open men’s events Russian athletes filled the podium on both days, lead by world #5 Alexander Legkov. In the women’s open events local Mt Beauty skier Esther Bottomley won the Sprint on Saturday, then took third place in the 10km Freestyle on Sunday behind Maria Graefnings from Sweden and Marina Chernousova from Russia.
Over half a metre of snow fell at Falls Creek in the week leading into the races, but then the weather eased up on the weekend to provide great racing conditions. The races were organised by the local Birkebeiner Nordic Ski Club, who also run the Kangaroo Hoppet international ski marathon on at Falls Creek next Saturday August 25.
The A-final of men’s Classic Sprint on Saturday was an all international affair, with Legkov winning ahead of team-mates Ilia Chernousov and Ivan Alypov after a close battle with Dusan Kozicek from the Czech Republic. The Australian title was determined in the B-Final; Callum Watson from Sydney claiming the line honours ahead of Mark van der Ploeg from Canberra.
Two-time Winter Olympian Bottomley won the Sprint qualifying time trial convincingly, then held on in the A-final ahead of Graefnings and another Mt Beauty local Anna Trnka. As the highest ranked U20 junior in the open final Trnka was the Australian Junior Champion. The male Australian Junior Champion was Alasdair Tutt from Wangaratta.
In the 15km Freestyle on Sunday Legkov and Chernousov blew the men’s field away, Legkov finishing 30 seconds ahead of his team-mate but over three minutes ahead of the first Australian Alex Almoukov from Berridale. Similarly Graefnings dominated the women’s 10km Freestyle, nearly two minutes ahead of second placed Marina Chernousova of Russia and three minutes up on Bottomley. In the junior classes Damon Morton from Marlo was the first U20 junior in the 15km and Lucy Glanville from Sydney the first U20 junior in the 10km.
A small Russian team of five athletes and three support staff have been training at Falls Creek since the start of August, and stay through until the Kangaroo Hoppet. Their Swiss coach, former World Cup racer Reto Burgermeister, has been very happy with the training conditions which he says are very similar to those experienced at the cross country venue for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi in Russia.
The ANC finishes up with the Kangaroo Hoppet next weekend. In the overall cup standings Bottomley and Watson have a commanding lead and are unlikely to be overtaken.
Contributed by Finn Marsland