With six of 12 medal events already decided in PyeongChang it seems about time for a mid-Olympic summary of the Australian cross country skiing performances so far.
Recapping our team announcement from January 28, a record six cross-country skiers were selected to the Australian Winter Olympic Team. The XC contingent flew into South Korea on February 5.
The games opened with the Women 15km Skiathlon on February 10. In cold and windy conditions Barbara Jezersek finished 39th and Jessica Yeaton 50th out of the field of 62 athletes. It should be noted that the Olympic Skiathlon and 30/50km Classic events are limited to only athletes who have the IOC/FIS Distance A-criteria. Barbara finished strongly on the skate leg with the 28th fastest time, and Jess also fought hard for every place in her Olympic debut.
Conditions were tough again for the Men 30km Skiathlon on February 11; cold, windy and tracks blowing in with powdery snow. Callum Watson finished 58th out of 68 starters, working together for much of the race with Callum Smith from Great Britain. The two Callums came through the exchange in 62 and 63rd place, then moved up in the skate leg to be 57th and 58th at the finish.
The 30km skiathlon was brutally tough. I fought with everything I had and therefore I'm proud of my Olympic best result of 58th! Finally, the body has recovered well and pepp levels for tomorrow's 15km skate are high!! Keen to throw down with all I've got! @ausolympicteam #pyeongchang2018 #winter #olympics
Next was the Classic Sprint for men and women on February 13. Classic waxing was challenging to get the right balance between grip and glide. In the women’s Sprint Jessica Yeaton was 48th, Aimee Watson 58th and Casey Wright 63rd out of 68 in her Olympic debut. On the men’s side Phillip Bellingham was 65th out of 80, unfortunately with slightly draggy skis and not in the hunt for top 30 that he was close to in the last Classic Sprint World Cup.
On Thursday February 15 in the Women 10km Freestyle Australia had full contingent of four athletes racing for the first time. Barbara Jezersek came charging home to claim 33rd place, equalling Australia’s best ever individual XC result by Chris Heberle in 1998. Jessica Yeaton also had a flyer, taking 41st place, with Aimee Watson 68th and Casey Wright 81st out of the 90 starters.
AOC Report: http://pyeongchang2018.olympics.com.au/news/jezersek-matches-australia-s-best-ever-olympic-result
Today (February 16) it was Callum Watson and Phillip Bellingham up again in the Men 15km Freestyle. Ranked 83rd and 81st, the boys fought hard and moved up towards the end to finish 70th and 77th respectively. Both managed to catch a ride behind faster skiers (Callum behind Rickardsson of Sweden, Phil behind Krogh of Norway), which for Cal in particularly helped him to settle his rhythm and get faster and faster as the race went on. Both boys are psyched up for the Team Sprint next Wednesday, February 21.
Phil lapping through with Krogh from Norway – photo by Flyingpointroad
The next event for the XC team will be the Team Sprint on Wednesday February 21. With the success of the Australian Team in the Team Sprint in the Dresden World Cup – Barbara & Jess 10th, and Phil & Callum 12th – hopes are high for a breakthrough Olympic performance. It will be no shoe-in, with 20+ teams for both men and women vying to make the 10-team final, but if everything falls into place on the day a finals berth is a real possibility.
Because of the prospect of making the final in the Team Sprint, it was decided not to enter a team in the Women 4x5km Relay, despite having four women at the Olympics for the first time. This was not an easy decision to make, but after consultation between the coaches and Australian Team performance managers it was agreed to keep the focus on the event with the best chance to achieve the best performance.
Now all the athletes have a chance to rest up and take the opportunity to spectate at events in PyeongChang with other Australians competing. Up next – the Women’s Aerials final tonight!
Finally, a shout out to the XC support team!