Winter Youth Olympic Games Report

After a very exciting and action filled two weeks in Norway here is the report!

YOG Athletes: Lilly Boland and Liam Burton

After departing Campra on the 7th of February to Zurich, we travelled to Oslo Airport in style via the Swissair Business Lounge, this was a total surprise to us and gave us good vibes heading into WYOG. After arriving in Oslo we were quickly separated from our skis, which were sent directly to the stadium and put on busses to Lillehammer. The delicacies available on the bus included lefsenbrod – a sweet pastry like bread with cinnamon/sugar/cream filling. Our arrival to the village introduced us to organised chaos as we were put through security, given accreditation, shown our rooms and then went on the search for food.

The next few days were spent acclimating to the spectacular show that is the Youth Olympic Games and getting our heads around the transport to and from the Birkebeineren Stadion, which was the training and competition venue for the Games. We quickly dressed up the wax cabin with an Aussie flag and added in a boxing kangaroo as soon as we could. During the first three days in Norway we visited the Swix factory and attended the team welcome ceremony as Gausdal VGS, our partner school for the games and part of the Pierre de Coubertin school network, if you happened upon any photos from this event, yours truly was dressed in a large yellow BK suit. This, on top of skiing where we could left us with very full schedules and not much downtime. Luckily our two athletes had access to daily physio treatments!

The opening ceremony was an awesome event with Norway highlighting its history of winter sport, with Oddvar Braa (breaking his pole as he skied across the stage and up the large hill at Lysgaardbakken), Bjoern Daehlie and Marit Bjoergen all making appearances alongside the royal family of Norway. 13,000 spectators were present (roughly half the population of Lillehammer) along with 1100 athletes, volunteers, performers and the ~800 support staff which left us awestruck.

Competition Day 1: Cross Country Cross

A challenging 1.25km loop with uphill drops, bumps, slaloms and uneven tracks awaited the athletes for the first ever Cross Country Cross event. Lilly was up first, qualifying 23rd and making the semi finals, 25.05sec behind Moa Lundgren of Sweden. In her semi, she was moving up through the field of ten on the large uphill close to the start looking incredibly strong, but unfortunately she tripped and lost her chance to go further as passing opportunities were limited thereafter. In nearly every heat, the finish order was determined by the top of the first hill. Liam qualified 38th against a tough field, 32.90sec behind Magnus Kim of South Korea, who was dominant throughout the week.

Competition Day 2: Classic Sprint

Held on the same 1.25km loop as the Cross Country Cross, the course allowed for very little rest with some incredibly challenging climbs. Not considered to be Lilly’s or Liam’s pet event, they both still managed to improve on their rankings finishing 36th and 41st respectively. Both athletes took some useful lessons away from this event, and were able to see what a high level there is internationally in classic sprinting even at the U18 level.

Competition Day 3: 5/10km Individual Freestyle

Held on a 5km loop, which was only signposted the day before the event we were not sure whether this was a good or bad thing. This course is one of the hardest I have ever seen, with the key uphill going for about 800-1000m. This played to our advantage, after all those hours spent skiing uphill at Perisher and both athletes threw down their best results of the competition. Lilly, starting with bib number one, flew around the course and we held on anxiously checking the splits as each skier came through. Coming through the 2.8km Lilly was in 29th place out of 39 starters, with only 1.3sec to the next fastest skier, but ahead of skiers from Poland, Andorra and Slovenia. On the climb, which started at 3.2km, she moved up into 28th and held that position to the end, finishing 2:11.8 down on the victor Maya Yakunina of Russia, who had a gap of 31.1sec over Chunxue Chi of China in second.

Liam started Bib 11 and came through the 2.8km mark in 29th place, 1 minute down on Hegdal of Norway, from there he took off losing only 1:25 over the next 5km to come by me again, this time in 26th place. The end was tough, and Liam had three other skiers within 5 seconds. By the end he was 27th out of the field of 50 ahead of Canada and Estonia among several other nations, 3:09 down on Magnus Kim of South Korea (he trains in Norway at NTG Geilo and chose to race for Korea rather than Norway, not sure if they’re wishing the choice had gone the other way?)

The remaining few days were spent enjoying the games and what they had to offer outside of sport including the wonderful Learn and Share area with lots of goodies to be won and activities to try. The day after the skate race we skied along with the teams from Iceland and Canada from Natrudstilen to the Birkebeineren Stadion, about 30km through the mountains.

Coming away from the Games with three Top 30 results is more than we could have hoped for, and gives both Liam and Lilly great confidence as they prepare to take their next step up in competition next season. A huge thanks to Adam St. Pierre of Team USA, Luca Bormolini from Aus Biathlon and Martin Kristiansen of Team Drammen who all helped with testing, waxing and race day support throughout the competition along with all the AOC Headquarters staff who helped make everything run smoothly especially our Performance Services Manager Ramone Cooper, Physio Scott Macdonald and Team Doctor Jane Fitzpatrick who provided us with vital help when it was needed.

Alasdair Tutt

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