Cross-country news - 25/2/8
For rollerskiers interested in competitive racing on snow, there are plenty of opportunities. Most stick to ski marathons, but for those prepared to train hard, there is the possibility of being on a par with the best skiers in the country - who come primarily from the British Army. Rollerskiiing all year round enables civilians to be competitive with only a few weeks on snow, compared to the months on snow enjoyed by army teams. Read on for reports on some recent successes -
The non-military skiers brought competition and calamity in equal measure to the army-dominated British cross-country ski championships, held in Ruhpolding, Germany earlier this month.
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:
Excellent results for GB Juniors in Malles, Val Venosta, Italy, in February, especially for:
Andrew Musgrave who was 42nd out of 89 in the 20k free technique race and 72nd out of 97 in the 10k classic race -
Alastair Duncan who was 70th out of 99 in the 1k sprint free technique race -
For British skiers to attain such decent results is a remarkable achievement. Racing against the best in the world, the skiers have been developed from a tiny pool, with very limited resources and - for the most of the time - with only rollerskis to train on. A lot of credit must go to the youngsters themselves, but also to the parents and the team of coaches who've developed them over the years.