AUSXC & SSA Awards 2016

The inaugural AUSXC Awards were held in Canberra on April 9.  There was an impressive turnout for the new event, with 90+ participants and a great atmosphere. As well as the nominees being announced for the SSA Awards that were subsequently held in Melbourne on April 28, the achievements of a cross country skiing athletes and officials over the previous 12 months were recognised and celebrated as AUSXC award winners.

The full list of 2016 SSA Award and AUSXC Awards winners is as follows:

SSA Award nominees (also AUSXC Award winners)

  • Athlete of the Year: Phillip Bellingham
  • Junior Athlete of the Year: Katerina Paul
  • Outstanding Achievement: Jessica Yeaton
  • Rising Star: Lilly Boland & Liam Burton
  • Coach of the Year: Randy Gibbs
  • Development Coach of the Year: Robert Jones

AUSXC Award winners

  • U23 Athlete of the Year: Jackson Bursill
  • Young Achievers: Jarrah Forrer & Freya Clarke
  • Masters Skier of the Year: Adrian Blake
  • Volunteers of the Year:
    – NSW: John Sim & Sonja Thorvaldson
    – ACT: Geraldine Blanch
    – VIC: Ronice Goebel

Special mention was made of Peter Ward, whose immeasurable volunteer efforts over many years saw him awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia on Australia Day this year for his services to cross country skiing. The SSAXC committee also recognised the great work of Robert Finlay, who clocked up 30 years as coach of the Wangaratta High School ski team in 2015.

Athlete of the Year Phillip Bellingham competed in 16 WC events last season, including nine Sprints. His best results were 49/100 in the Lenzerheide Freestyle Sprint and 46/83 in the Quebec City Freestyle Sprint. Phillip also won the 2015 Australian New Zealand Continental Cup, collected three Australian titles, and was on the podium at the 2016 Estonian Sprint Championship.

Junior Athlete of the Year Katerina Paul‘s 46th place in the Classic Sprint at the World Junior Championship was the best percent of field result by an Australian female since Esther Bottomley in 2003. Katerina also won the 2015 Australian Junior Championship, picked up her first Open Australian Championship win, and qualified for the Continental Cup Team with impressive results in the OPA Cup in Slovenia.

Competing on the North American circuit for most of the season, Jessica Yeaton won the XC Outstanding Achievement award for becoming the first Australian female to complete a FIS World Cup Tour. Finishing 46th overall in the Canada World Cup Tour series of 8 races in 12 days, Jessica’s best individual performance was 41/69 in the Quebec City Freestyle Sprint.

The Rising Star XC winners were Liam Burton and Lilly Boland, Australia’s representatives at the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer. Both Liam and Lilly skied amazingly in Lillehammer, with Liam finishing 27th in the 10km Freestyle, and Lilly qualifying 23rd in the Cross Country Cross and finishing 28th in the 5km Freestyle.

Randy Gibbs from the USA was the Coach of the Year. Randy led the Australian Team for the World Cups in Switzerland, Italy, Slovenia, Finland, and at the Canada Tour. Filling the double role of head coach / wax tech, Randy’s experience and leadership gave athletes confidence that they were receiving world class support.

The Development Coach of the Year Robert Jones was Mr Everywhere over the last year. Supporting athletes on World Cup Cup, OPA Cup and the World Junior/U23 Championships, Rob also gained valuable experience working alongside the Mora Ski-Gymnasium in Sweden. During the 2015 Australian winter Rob coached and provided race support with the Vic Squad, while also working as assistant coach at the National Training Centre at Falls Creek.

In the first of the new AUSXC Award categories, Jackson Bursill was the U23 Athlete of the Year. Jackson had strong performances during the 2015 Australian winter where he qualified to ski World Cup in the Sprint and finished on the podium in the 10km Classic. Overseas he gained valuable experience at the Planica World Cup where he raced the Sprint and made his Team Sprint debut. At the 2016 World U23 Championship Jackson finished 51st/71 in a tough field.

The Youth Achiever awards were for athletes under the age of 16, and the winners were Freya Clarke and Jarrah Forrer. Both young skiers had a first and second place in the Australian Junior Championship, with Freya also taking out Division 2 at the Australian Interschools and Jarrah winning the Joey Hoppet.

The Master Athlete of Year went to Adrian Blake. Adrian represented Australia in the 2016 Worlds Masters event in Finland, finishing 19/42 in the 30km Freestyle and 28/43 in the 15km Frestyle. Adrian is also an integral part of NSW XC skiing, acting as Chief of Timing at all races and filling the role of Nordic Shelter manager in 2015.

Volunteer of the Year awards were presented to volunteers from each of NSW, ACT and Victoria. These were difficult awards to decide on, as there are so many fantastic volunteers contributing for the good of the sport at many different levels.

NSW: John Sim and Sonja Thorvaldson continually support the sport in many different areas and are always willing to help. They can always be relied on at working bees at the Sverre Kaaten Nordic Shelter and on the Perisher XC trails over the summer, they are out there assisting to run races most weekends and continue after the races are over with fundraising on the BBQ.

ACT: Geraldine Blanch has been the backbone behind the NSW XC team for a number of years and in 2015 leapt into the breach with the new ACT XC program as well. Managing the Team App, chasing up memberships, paying the coaches are just some of her activities behind the scenes, then at the coalface Geraldine is always there volunteering at races during the winter, coordinating training camps and assisting with sessions at Stromlo.

VIC: As manager of the Victorian Junior Squad and president of Birkebeiner Ski Club, Ronice Goebel is probably the busiest person in Victorian cross country skiing. Her contributions towards the organisation and development of the sport in Australia cover involvement from youth to adult, in activities including running the Falls Creek Ski di Femme, volunteering at races, acting as TD at other races, and continually lobbying for the betterment of the sport.

A report on the overall SSA Awards winners is available on the SSA website.

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