SSA Awards 2014

The 2014 Ski & Snowboard Australia Awards were held in Melbourne last Thursday evening May 1. The overall Snowsports Athlete of the Year award was shared between Sochi 2014 silver medalists David Morris (Freestyle Aerials) and Torah Bright (Snowboard). The rest of the awards and summary of the evening can be read about here on the SSA website.

No cross country skiers received overall awards, however the cross country skiing nominations for each of the awards were as follows:

  • Athlete of the Year: Phillip Bellingham
  • Junior Athlete of the Year: Casey Wright
  • Outstanding Achievement: Phillip Bellingham
  • Rising Star: Katerina Paul
  • Coach of the Year: August Teague
  • Development Coach of the Year: JC Legras

The citations that accompanied each of the cross country skiing nominations are included below.

Athlete of the Year
Winter Olympic debut, World Under 23 Championship, twelve World Cup starts, World University Games; Phillip Bellingham had a big season in Europe. While his stand-out performance was qualifying 16th in the Sprint Time Trial at the U23s, Phillip’s consistency in World Cup Freestyle Sprints and the number of PBs ticked off was impressive. These included best place of 37th, lowest FIS points of 40.5, and his closest effort to making the finals just 1.2 seconds outside the top 30. Phillip’s debut in Sochi was solid, his best performance 55th on a hilly 1.8km Sprint in soft conditions that wasn’t ideal for his 84kg body type. However, don’t be tricked into thinking that Phillip is just a power machine in a predominantly aerobic sport. His distance racing this season also took a step up, with highlights including 23rd at the World University Games 30km Classic, 46th in the U23 World Championship 15km Classic and his FIS distance world ranking lifting over 400 places.

Junior Athlete of the Year
Casey Wright is the Cross Country Skiing Junior Athlete of the Year. Her highlight performance was 48th in the Freestyle Sprint at the World Junior Championship, the best % of field sprint result by an Australian female since Esther Bottomley in 2003, and a top 50 result for Casey two years in a row. Leading into the World Junior Championship Casey scored three impressive top 16 results at the Swedish Junior Championship, including 11th place in the 10km Freestyle. She was also the best performing female at the 2013 World University Games, placing 54th in the 10km Skiathlon. Together with junior team-mates Anna Trnka and Xanthea Dewez, Casey also this season achieved the qualification standard used for the 2013 senior World Championships.

Outstanding Achievement
Phillip Bellingham – 16th in the Sprint Time Trial at the World U23 Championship
Phillip Bellingham’s 16th in the Freestyle Sprint Time Trial at the U23 World Championships is the highest ever place by an Australian Cross Country Skier at a FIS World Championship event. Rubbing shoulders with regular World Cup finalists in the ¼ finals, unfortunately he was tripped up half way round the course by the eventual A-final silver medalist, finishing up 25th.  Only one other Australian has ever made the top 20 at the World U23 Championship, Ben Sim, who finished 19th in the 15km Classic in 2008.

Rising Star
Cross Country Skiing Rising Star Katerina Paul has demonstrated great potential as Australia’s sprinter of the future. In the 2013 winter Katerina was selected for the Australian Junior Team for the first time after making the Open semi-finals of the Australian Championships Freestyle Sprint at Falls Creek and qualifying 6th for the Classic Sprint at Perisher. Training with the Sun Valley team in the USA over the northern winter, Katerina surprised the locals by claiming 3rd place in the finals of the junior sprint at the US championships, and followed up at the US Junior Championship making it through to the semi-finals in the U18 category. Moving to Falls Creek for the 2014 winter, Katerina or “Kat” Paul is a name to watch out for already this year.

Coach of the Year
August Teague started with the Australian Team as the Falls Creek Training Centre Coach and quickly moved up to officially become the World Cup Team coach in 2013. Under August’s watch Australia had four cross country skiing athletes selected to Sochi 2014, topping the previous record of three in Torino and Vancouver. The outstanding performer on the World Cup team this season was Phillip Bellingham, who scored a personal best 37th at the Poland World Cup with August flying solo team support as coach/driver/wax technician. Always concerned with the “whole” athlete, August’s coaching style has had a significant impact on Australian athletes and coaches that will continue to reap positive benefits for years to come.

Development Coach of the Year
JC Legras has been developing athletes in Australia for many years, working at club, school, state and national level. In 2013 JC was appointed as the Cross Country Skiing National Strength & Conditioning coach, responsible for providing strength training direction for athletes at all levels of the national team and having direct input into the strength programs of athletes on the World Cup Team. On top of his official work with the Victorian Junior Squad and National Team, JC is the personal coach of team athletes Casey Wright and Nick Montgomery, both of whom took a big step up in international competition this year. Casey was the best performing female at the World Junior Championships and World University Games, while Nick dramatically improved his world ranking and qualified for the U23 World Championship in his first year out of juniors. Coaches like JC, who can take an athlete from interschools all the way through to the international stage, are essential for the long-term success of Australian cross country skiing.

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