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Aussies underway at Cross Country World Championships

24 February 2017

CROSS COUNTRY SKIING: The FIS Nordic World Ski Championships have kicked off with eight Australians taking to the snow as the first medals were decided in Lahti, Finland.

New fresh snow made for challenging racing, with hard fast tracks quickly softening up and ski selection becoming a critical factor.

Sochi 2014 Olympian Phil Bellingham secured Australia’s best result finishing 43rd in the men’s sprint qualification in a field of 156.

Bellingham was pushing for a place in the final by claiming a top 30 qualification finish but was just over five seconds away from achieving that goal as he clocked a time of 3:27.46.

Fellow Sochi athlete Callum Watson finished 69th (3:35.94), while Paul Kovacs claimed 86th (3:42.69) and Nick Montgomery finished 101st (3:51.13).

The event was won by Italy’s Federico Pellegrini with Sergey Ustiugov of Russia claiming silver and Norway’s Johannes Klaebo taking home the bronze medal.

In the women’s sprint Jessica Yeaton (45th – 3:19.63) edged out Barbara Jezserek (46th – 3:20.85) as Australia’s top female in the 107 strong field.

Aimee Watson claimed 59th (3:31.33) with Katerina Paul in 68th (3:42.53) as Norway’s Maiken Falla won the gold medal ahead of USA duo Jessica Diggins and Kikkan Randall.

The championships opened on Wednesday with the 5/10km Classic qualification event, where 33 women and 63 men vied to finish in the top 10 and make it through to compete in the medal distance events. Katerina Paul successfully made it through, finishing strong to take third place in the 5km Classic, however Nick Montgomery missed out in the 10km Classic finishing 20th.

Competition continues with the men’s and women skiathlon events on early Sunday morning (AEDT).

Matt Bartolo

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