Junior Cross Country athletes ready to take on world’s best
Having enjoyed world-class preparation, a team of nine young Australian cross country stars are ready and raring to compete at the 2017 Junior & U23 World Championships in Soldier Hollow, USA.
The team has been based in Sun Valley, Idaho training with one of the best cross country programs in North America – the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF).
“We have been able to train at the same altitude and similar snow conditions to Soldier Hollow with some of the best young North American skiers,” Head Coach Robert Jones said. Three athletes from SVSEF will represent the USA at the championships.
“We also hit the jackpot in regards to preparation as the US Nationals were held at the Soldier Hollow course on the exact same tracks that we will race for the WJC/ U23’s. It was a good experience for our athletes as we could learn the conditions and get used to such a strong field. I would say this is the best preparation a junior team could have really!”
Casey Wright and Katerina Paul are set to make their U23 World Championship debut, having both previously represented Australia at the Junior World Championships.
“World Championships are coming around so quickly,” 20-year-old Paul said.
“I believe I have been set up for the season in the best possible way. I have had a good training base with easier “no pressure races” to warm up into before all my bigger races begin in the later part of the season.
“My overall goals would be to be in the best form possible for my bigger races. I hope I have given myself a good opportunity to do so.”
Making their Junior World Championships debut but no strangers to the world stage are Lilly Boland and Liam Burton. The young duo represented Australia at the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway, where they both achieved ground-breaking top 30 results.
“Leading into the Junior World Championships, I believe the experience of big stage skiing allows me to be comfortable in important races and knowledgeable of the task ahead, as well as how to approach it,” Burton said.
“After experiencing the level of my competitors and understanding what it takes to ensure a good result for myself and the country, I will be excited to stand on the start line in just over a week’s time for the World Junior Champs.”
The pair will be in good company, joined by 19-year-old Ella Jackson who competed at the 2016 Junior World Championship as well as four other young rising stars in the sport.
With four young men on the team, Australia will enter a junior men’s relay team for the first time since 1995.
“Cross country skiing in Australia is a small sport so we all become close friends through many hours of training and travelling together,” Boland said.
“Having a large team overseas is great in the sense that we motivate and support each other during events such as World Juniors which can be challenging both mentally and physically at times. Training with a larger team also gives me additional motivation during hard sessions so I can match teammates pace and technique.”
For Head Coach Robert Jones, the upcoming Championships in Soldier Hollow are about building for the future as much as they are about achieving immediate results.
“These events give us a chance to see where the level is and what we need to work on to get there,” Jones said.
“We have great training conditions at the National Training Centre at Falls Creek during the Australian winter, and strong domestic races, but it is hard to see how the athletes are going on a world scale.
“Although at this stage we aren’t looking to make podiums in these championships, all our athletes are still progressing and developing in the sport so one day down the track we can have athletes in the top 10’s on World Cup and Olympics. Simply being at these events is a good development process for our athletes as they can see how the best in the world prepare.”
The Championships will take place at Soldier Hollow, USA from 30 January – 5 February 2017.
The Australian Team for the 2017 Junior & U23 World Championships
U23 Athletes: Casey Wright, Katerina Paul,
Junior Athletes: Lilly Boland, Ella Jackson, Gabrielle Hawkins, Liam Burton, Seve de Campo, Matthew Bull, Jarrah Forrer
Head Coach: Robert Jones
Assistant Coach/Manager: Georgia Merritt
Technicians: Bryan Cook (USA), Tom Smith (USA)
Follow the Australian Team @ausxc via social media.