Bellingham/Kovacs and Yeaton/Wright Impress in Team Sprint

Falun 2015 Race Report # 4 – Team Sprint

The Falun 2015 Team Sprint was one of the main events the Australian Team was targeting at these championships. In the women’s Team Sprint the combination of Jessica Yeaton and Casey Wright finished 18th after a tough race against Great Britain. In the men’s event Phillip Bellingham and Paul Kovacs finished 23rd after a couple of blazes of glory mid-race. But first to the circumstances of the team selection.

Jess&Casey_TeamSprint_Falun2015_m

Phil&PK_TeamSprint_Falun2015

Esther Bottomley had been originally selected with Jessica for the women’s event, unfortunately a bout of gastro laid her low on Friday afternoon and the call was made on Saturday morning to bring in Casey to the team for the next day. Callum Watson had decided to skip the Skiathlon on Saturday to focus on the Team Sprint with his 2014 Winter Olympic partner Phillip, however his stomach had other ideas on Saturday afternoon. After ending up in hospital on a drip for half the evening there was no chance for Callum to start, and PK was substituted in on the race morning. This meant the boys were relegated to start at the back of the field in their semi-final.

Jessica got away to a good start on the first leg, but over the top of the course she and British skier Posy Musgrave just lost contact with the main pack. The GBR/AUS battle had begun. On the second leg Casey gained a small lead on young Brit Sarah Hale (who is a Falun local), then on the third leg Jess laid it all down to increase the lead and close on the team from Ukraine. Hale closed the gap slightly on the fourth leg, then Musgrave bridged across and kicked away from Jess on the fifth leg. Casey dug deep and gave it her all on the final leg but the Brits held on to take 8th place in the semi-final by three seconds. In the other semi-final the 9th placed Chinese pipped the Australian time by just 1.6s to claim 17th overall. On the whole though, a great effort by Jessica and Casey and great experience for them competing in front of a massive (and very vocal) crowd.

In the first men’s semi-final there were flashbacks to Phil’s off-the-front effort from Val di Fiemme 2013 as he charge up the first hill, but this time he settled into the pack mid-lap and changed to PK in the middle of the bunch. PK skied a great first leg in the middle of the pack and changed in 10th at the second change. Phil then decided it was time to make a move and charged from 10th to 3rd on the first big hill, coming down to the stadium in 4th on his second lap. He faded a little coming into the change but still posted the fastest time for the second leg. PK fought hard on his second leg to change just behind Ukraine and Bulgaria, but then the elastic broke. The boys did well to keep fighting all the way to the finish to end up 12th in the heat and faster than 11th and 12th from the other semi-final. All up a solid effort that gained quite a few positive comments from TV commentators and other teams. After the race Phil said, “We were up there for two laps in Val di Fiemme, four laps now, next time we want to be there for the full six”.

After the rest day tomorrow is the women’s 10km Freestyle. Esther is off her sick bed and on the start list together with Jessica, Aimee Watson and Xanthea Dewez. Casey is ready as the reserve just in case; hopefully the illness days are behind the team now and everyone is able to acheive their remaining goals.

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