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Aussie skiers fight hard in Falun

30 January 2017

CROSS COUNTRY SKIING: Australians Callum Watson, Paul Kovacs and Phil Bellingham stepped up their preparations for Pyeongchang 2018 with competitive performances at the Cross Country Skiing World Cup in Falun, Sweden over the weekend.

All three men battled it out in the 1.4km Sprint, while Kovacs and Bellingham also competed in the 30km mass start.

Both races had strong fields, and the three Aussies will take a lot positives from competing against the best that the sport has to offer, in races that included past and present World champions.

In the 1.4km Sprint qualifying, Watson finished the best of the Aussies in 70th, his time of 2 minutes, 53.65 seconds leaving him only 11.29 seconds outside a qualifying time.

Kovacs and Bellingham rounded out the field in 74th and 75th respectively, with times of 3 minutes 3.63 seconds and 3 minutes 36.69 seconds.

The qualification run was looking promising for Bellingham, until his strong performance was halted by an unfortunate fall on the last corner. He picked himself up and finished the race, hungrier than ever for the same event at the World Championship sprint in Lahti in February, where the aim is to crack the top 30 and make the Sprint finals for the first time.

The final was taken out by Italy’s Federico Pellegrino, who claimed his first win of 2017 after an impressive 2016 campaign which saw him take out five individual sprint events.

In the 30 km Mass Start on Sunday, Phil Bellingham and Paul Kovacs finished in 63rd and 65th in a gruelling event which saw 6 competitors fail to complete the race.

Watson had a niggling heel injury flare up during the warm-up for Sunday’s race, and decided to withdraw, one eye firmly fixed on the test World Cup event in Pyeongchang next week. All three men will join Jessica Yeaton and Aimee Watson in South Korea on Tuesday for their first inspection of the 2018 Olympic tracks before competing later in the week.

Nathan Lange

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