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Aussies upbeat despite ski cross disappointment

22 January 2012

In disappointing news for the Australian Winter Youth Olympic Team, the finals of the ski cross have been cancelled due to the weather and will not be held at the Games.

After the qualification runs on Thursday, the head-to-head racing finals were due to be held on Friday 19 January at the mountain resort of Kuhtai, an hour out of Innsbruck.

Extremely heavy snowfall on Friday however ruled out the finals, with competition postponed until an improvement in the weather made racing feasible.

Unfortunately the snow has continued to fall ceaselessly across the entire region and there is no way for the competition to proceed.

“At today’s Jury meeting – in consultation with the Organising Committee, FIS and IOC – the unanimous decision was made to eventually cancel the ski cross finals,” an official statement from the Innsbruck 2012 Organising Committee said.

Despite the disappointment, the Australian camp is accepting and realistic about the situation.

“At the end of the day they had to cancel it because of the snow,” Australian ski cross coach Shawn Fleming said.

“Mostly, you wouldn’t even have been able to even get to the venue and they couldn’t have controlled the avalanche danger. There’s been over a metre [of snow] just overnight so logistically it just couldn’t happen.

“All of the coaches from all of the nations – whether their athletes are in first or last still would rather see everyone race than take results from qualifying. But that’s racing.”

Australia had three athletes set to compete in the finals, each of them with a genuine shot at a medal.

Wollongong’s Jack Millar, will finish his competition in the place of 13th – with all competitors being assigned their qualification position as their eventual placing. For an athlete whose strength lies in racing as opposed to qualifying, the outcome is not great for him.

“I’m pretty disappointed overall,” 16-year-old Millar said. “My strong points are against other people in starts, so hopefully I would have got a better result but it is what it is and I just have to deal with it.”

Millar’s maturity as a racer has shone through in this difficult climate though and he is looking at the entire experience as a building block for his future.

“It has given me a broader aspect on my skiing,” he said of his Youth Olympic experience. “The Olympics are a totally different sort of situation than a normal FIS race, so it’s been really great.”

Also in the men’s field was alpine skier Harry Laidlaw. Laidlaw high-tailed it from mountain to mountain last Thursday to compete in the giant slalom and ski cross qualifications in one day.

He blitzed his qualification and placed fourth overall, giving him a top five finish to add to his other alpine results.
“It’s a bummer that we (Jack, Claudia and Harry) don’t get to race the ski cross finals but that’s how it goes,” 15-year-old Laidlaw said.

“It would have been good to get the extra experience of racing head-to-head at this level but there will be other opportunities and I came here with alpine as my main focus. I feel bad for Jack and Claudia though.”

Claudia Leggett, 15 was Australia’s only female representative in the ski cross and was in great form for a podium finish also.

Leggett had been producing strong and consistent training runs in the lead up to competition and in her qualification round, finished fifth.

“I’m annoyed that I don’t get to race, but of course I’m still happy with my final placing.”

The young skier from Brisbane has a big future ahead of her and has learned a lot from her experience.

“The best thing I got out of this I think is how to handle my nerves really well,” she said. “I was so nervous for days, but on the day of the event I thought it through and I thought – it’s so good for me to be here and I should probably just make the most of my experience and do the best I can. I’m determined to take that attitude with me to future competitions.”

All athletes will now join their teammates for the final enjoyable days of the Games. They will head to the Medal Plaza tonight to cheer on ice hockey bronze medallist Sharnita Crompton and then will return there for tomorrow’s Closing Ceremony.

Alice Wheeler
Australian Olympic Committee

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