Part Two of the Australian National Championships were held last weekend August 19-20 at Falls Creek, the home of the Australian National Team. Barbara Jezersek and Phillip Bellingham each topped the podium on both days, winning first the A-final of the Classic Sprint on Saturday and the 10/15km Freestyle races on Sunday. In addition the best cross country skiers in the country the weekend attracted a number of international Olympic hopefuls who had made the journey down under.
Saturday hosted a never seen before sprint course, which, due to its long and dynamic climbs out of the start and twisting downhills, caused a lot of pain for all. The fastest qualifying time for the day was Paul Kovacs with 3:56.09 whose larger foot size probably prevailed as Bellingham qualified second just .04 of a second back. Jezersek was the fastest woman both in the time trial and throughout the finals series. In the finals, most heats were fought out right to the line with many youngsters vying for the top two spots to proceed further. In the men’s final, Bellingham, after preserving as much in the quarter and semi, set the course on fire by blowing everyone away within the first minute to make it home comfortably ahead of Callum Watson and Miles Havlick from the USA. In the Women’s, Jezersek went out hard and held it. Young gun Katerina Paul skied bravely for second place and Aimee Watson rounded the podium for third just behind Kat.
Sunday continued the great weather with -6 degree temperatures overnight before welcoming a spectacular blue bird and skiers enjoyed firm, gentle, and fast snow. The women went off first, French skier and Falls Creek XC Ski School coach Iris Pessey set a fast benchmark for the field, however Barbara Jezersek was too strong again and finished with a time of 27:08. Iris held on to second place with 29:07 just ahead of Aimee Watson with 29:16. A big congratulations to 29-year-old skier Sarah Slattery for beating many national team members to come fourth. The men followed, conditions were still great for the 15km. The positions were closely fought through the first 10km between Callum Watson, Phil Bellingham and Miles Havlick. But when the going got tough, the tough got going, so Bellingham turned it up on the last lap to finish first with a time of 36:45, 34 seconds ahead of Watson. Havlick, coming out of retirement, came third with 37:41, Paul Kovacs was third best Aussie.
Overall, a fantastic weekend of racing. Up next, the Kangaroo Hoppet, Australian Birkebeiner and Joey Hoppet take place at Falls Creek on Saturday August 26.