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Aussies to compete in one of the Games' toughest events

23 February 2018

CROSS COUNTRY SKIING: Arguably one of the toughest Winter Olympic events on the schedule, the men's 50km Classic is going to be a battle of endurance and mental exhaustion.

Two Australians, Phil Bellingham and Callum Watson, will be taking on that challenge when they line up against the finest cross country skiing has to offer on Saturday morning.

"Even though 50k is not my pet event I felt that if I didn't start I would regret not giving it a go," Bellingham said.

"I also feel that my Olympics haven't been quite what I was hoping so far and want to go out on a note knowing that I've done everything I could.

"It's hard to prepare for but I am very aware it's going to be grueling and a mental battle so all I can do is be prepared for an absolute battle and hope for the best."

His teammate and good friend Callum Watson is more accustomed to longer distances but is not downplaying the difficulty of an Olympic 50km race.

"My mindset is to just focus entirely on efficiency," Watson said.

"Many people over do it, and I'll set my sights on trying to reel in as many as I can towards the final kilometres as people really begin to feel the strain of it all.

"It is by no means my specialty, and I have only ever completed one 50km classic event in my career so far.

"It's the sport's toughest event but my classic skiing has never really been better than it is now so it really comes down to just seeing what I can produce."

The now dual-Olympian admits he was not likely to line up in the event due to an ongoing injury.

"I have been struggling with a chronic Achilles issue that has limited my classic skiing for a long period," he said.

"After some really beneficial periods spent with our Team Physio Ben Bond over the winter, it has been progressing further and further.

"This week, finally I have been classic skiing pain free and this has made it possible to consider racing this event."

What will make the event even more difficult is that the course is one of the toughest going around.

"The course is super tough, probably one of the hardest there is so there is no easy way to look at it," Bellingham said.

"We need everything to go right for us just to make it through a race like this so it'll be great to come out the other side and be very relieving once it's done."

On top of all of that, Bellingham will be completing the event on his 27th birthday.

"It's definitely not the best way to spend your birthday but if I get through it it'll be a very rewarding and proud moment," he said

The event kicks off at 2pm local time (4pm AEDT).

Matt Bartolo

olympics.com.au

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