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Cross Country contenders dream of Innsbruck

31 August 2011

In the endurance sport of cross country skiing, athletes must be prepared to tackle the elements and face the unexpected. When Australia’s young cross country athletes line up for the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games (WYOG) in Austria in January 2012, they will be primed for the challenge.

Contenders for Australia’s two WYOG quota places participated in four qualifying races throughout July and August, covering a total distance of 12km for women and 22km for men.

Competition was fierce as Australians born between 1 January 1994 and 31 December 1995 tried to secure one of just two cross country tickets to Innsbruck, Austria for the Games on January 13-22, 2012.

The women’s competition became a battle of NSW versus Victoria as Sydneysider Lucy Glanville and Mount Beauty’s Anna Trnka nipped at each other’s skis throughout all four races.

Trnka won the opening WYOG Classic Sprint time trial by just 0.30 seconds. Glanville then asserted herself in the Open Women's Finals, placing second overall behind dual Winter Olympian Esther Bottomley- herself too old for WYOG selection.

The tables were turned in the Freestyle Sprint race, with Glanville winning the time trial but Trnka taking second in the Open Final- again behind the ineligible Bottomley.

Glanville took out the Distance Classic 5km and Freestyle 5km events, however Tmka gave it everything in the final Classic to be only 22 seconds behind.

“I will hopefully be selected for Innsbruck,” said Glanville, who is coached by Nick Almoukov, father of Vancouver Olympian Alex.

“Ever since Finn Marsland (national coach) told a group of us about it in 2008, I have been really motivated and determined to get this opportunity,” the Year 11 PLC student added.

Fuelled by dreams of racing at the Youth Olympics, competition amongst Australia’s male athletes was rife. The first three days of racing delivered three different winners.

In Falls Creek the Classic Sprint event was won by Melbourne’s Alex Gibson, coached by Victorian Junior Team coach Jean-Claude Legras, with Wangaratta’s Ben Kaye winning the Distance Freestyle 10km.

The second weekend of competition in Perisher saw Sydney boy Daniel Walker enter the frame with a win in the Freestyle Sprint. With that, everything rested on the final Distance Classic 10km.

Kaye, who won over the same distance in Falls Creek, unfortunately did not contest the final race due to illness. It was Alex Gibson, the winner from the first day of racing, who stepped up to deliver his best distance race of the season, winning the 10km Classic convincingly ahead of Walker.

Though the WYOG qualification racing is over, the team is yet to be announced. Athletes will be nominated to the Australian Olympic Committee for selection in coming months.

The athletes will now return to a general volume training period in preparation for the northern hemisphere winter and the WYOG in Innsbruck, Austria in January, 2012.

Taya Conomos

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