Cross-country news - 25/2/8
Rising star Olwen Thorn of the Huntly Nordic Ski Club, warmed up with a 12.5k biathlon race (the biathlon races in Austria having preceded the cross-country championships), finishing 6th out of 29, in spite of having by far the worst shot in the top 10, and having to borrow a rifle. She went on to win the ladies 10k classic cross-country ski race, beating fellow civilian and member of the London Region Nordic Ski Club, Karolina Bicova, by just 7 seconds, with the nearest army skier 90 seconds behind.
However the glory of winning the classic race was overshadowed by calamity in the 6k pursuit race (classic followed by skating), when Thorn took a wrong turning and was 'pursued' by most of the field. Of 30 starters, over half the field was disqualified and there were only 12 British finishers. Talented junior Ashleigh Spittle of Australia won the race, while the fastest British skier was Tash Patton of the army, who had finished 18th in the classic race the previous day, and must have been delighted!
There was success in the mens field for Alan Eason who took bronze medal in both the 15k classic and the 9k pursuit. He also featured in the biathlon races, managing a very respectable 12th (out of 46) in the 12.5k biathlon mass start, despite missing 11 of the 20 shots.
Despite her navigational issues, Olwen clearly impressed at the British Champs, and has been selected to train with the GBR Biathlon's Womens Squad this summer. The biathlon squad will clearly be hoping they can teach her to shoot (and follow directions) [OK, I'll stop this now...]
It is difficult for athletes moving from the comfort of the GB XC Junior Development squad, to the rigours and lone existence of competitive senior skiing. Without any support from Snowsport GB (which is the governing body), there is practically nothing by way of coaching, waxing, logistical or financial support for senior athletes. Given the current situation, biathlon is probably the best route for competitively minded cross-country skiers to go down. Although she will have to be self-funded for most of her skiing, being a member of the biathlon squad will give her access to some coaching and waxing support, and would bring with it the camaraderie of being part of a team.
Saturday 16 February 2008 was a particularly eventful date for British Cross Country Ski racing. The British Nordic Development Squad members racing for their Austrian Club, St Martin Bei Lofer showed a strong performance in the individual time trial race in free technique, ie skating, at the Austrian National Youth Cross Country Ski Championships.
Andrew’s winning margin of 10 seconds hides the drama of the race in which he was taken out by a fallen skier at a bad corner leading into a uphill climb. It was nip and tuck with only seconds between the leading contenders. The drama, and effort was too much for one of those chasing Andrew, and he retired leaving Andrew to battle it out with one of the co favourites. Andrew skied the race of his life to put the result beyond question, and now holds the title of Austrian Meister - Jugend 1. This performance also led to Salzburgerland being the top medal winning Land(state) in the Austrian Championships.
The full squad was: