Australian XC Season Preview
6 December 2013
CROSS COUNTRY: Australian athletes have already been racing in FIS races in Europe and North America for over three weeks, but the official Australian Team international competition program begins tomorrow in Seefeld in Austria.
Ten athletes will be competing in different events in the Austrian Cup races from Friday to Sunday, including athletes from the World Cup Team and the Universiade Team. Sochi 2014 contenters Callum and Aimee Watson, Phillip Bellingham, Esther Bottomley and Paul Kovacs are among the Aussies to watch.
It will be another big season for the team. Aside from the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi in February, the 2013/2014 competition schedule includes World Junior and U23 Championships, the World Universiade Winter Games, the World Cup circuit, and plenty of other nation cup and FIS international events.
Highlights of the "unofficial" season so far include Phillip Bellingham making his first Sweden Cup sprint 1/4-final in Bruksvallarna; Anna Trnka making it onto the junior podium in the Swedish FIS international in Idre; and Aimee Watson's top 10 in the Italian FIS season opener in Santa Caterina. Watson in particular has had a sensational season start, racing well from the get-go and is closing fast on the Sochi A-qualification standard of five results averaging under 100 FIS points. One more sub-100 point race will really put her in the mix.
While this long weekend in Seefeld will be a good indicator of race form, for most Australians racing here it is part of their preparation for races coming up the following week. The Winter Universiade takes place from December 12-21 in Italy, and the World Cup in Davos on December 14-15 is one of the Australian Team "Benchmark" events for selection to Sochi. After the next and final Benchmark event in Poland on January 18-19 the Australian Team for Sochi will be selected. Currently Australia has a quota of two male and two female athletes, to be filled from athletes who have met the A-qualification standard. Athletes who have already met the standard include Esther Bottomley, Callum Watson and Phillip Bellingham, and Paul Kovacs is also very close.
Following the racing action in December the Australian Junior/U23 Team heads up to Sweden for a training block based out of Ostersund (in fact some of them are already there). Under the tutelage of former national team members Nick and Lescinska Grimmer, the team will undertake the dual purpose of preparing for the World Junior/U23 Championships in Italy at the end of January and evaluating Ostersund as a potential long-term season base for the team.