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Promising cross country results in PyeongChang

7 February 2017

CROSS COUNTRY: It has been a historic weekend for Australian Cross Country skiing as five Aussies took on the world’s best at the PyeongChang 2018 Test Event.

Sochi 2014 Olympians Phil Bellingham and brother and sister duo Aimee and Callum Watson joined Jessica Yeaton and Paul Kovacs in the host city as they all push towards securing a berth at the 2018 Games.

Yeaton began the weekend by making the Sprint finals before both her and Aimee Watson claimed World Cup points in the Skiathlon event.

“Although the fields were much smaller than usual here, I am still really happy with how I performed this weekend,” Yeaton said.

“It is pretty incredible to have finished in the top 30 and scored World Cup points.”

“These races have definitely given me confidence, but more than anything they have inspired me to work even harder as I push towards qualification.

“I now have a better idea of what I need to work on in order to achieve my goals during the next year leading into the Olympics.”

The event opened with Yeaton finishing 30th in the Sprint qualification to move through to the quarter-finals where she was knocked out. Aimee Watson just one spot back from Yeaton but only the top 30 progressed through to the finals.

In the Men’s Sprint, Bellingham was only just over two seconds off making the top 30, finishing in 38th, while Kovacs was a further five seconds back in 45th.

On Saturday evening Yeaton and Aimee Watson combined to make history for Australia in the 15km Skiathlon. 

25-year-old Yeaton finished 24th just under five minutes off winner Justina Kowalczyk of Poland with Sochi 2014 Olympian Aimee Watson claiming 27th.

The results saw the duo both claim World Cup points, with this being the first time two Australians have achieved that feat in the same event.

In the men’s 30km Skiathlon, Callum Watson scored a personal best when he finished 31st, just missing out on securing World Cup points himself.

Teammate Paul Kovacs, who is looking to push for his first Olympic appearance in PyeongChang, was unfortunately lapped out of the race with only 5km to go, ending up ranked 33rd.

Yeaton and Aimee Watson rounded out the event by combining to compete in the Team Sprint Free event where they held off Russia on the last leg to claim 12th. Callum Watson and Bellingham out-sprinted Canada to secure 17th in the men’s event.

“I was really happy how the team worked together this week in Pyeongchang, from the athletes to the wax techs,” coach Valerio Leccardi said.

“That was a good test for us for next year and showed us that we are on the right track.

“It was a thinner field of athletes than usual starting in the competitions this weekend, which was an extra motivation for our athletes to be able to show a good result.

“Each of them gave its best and I saw good performances in some events. We still have room for improvement though.”

The athletes will now turn their focus towards the World Championships later this month.

“The coming weekend some athletes will race the Estonian nationals in Otepää which have the same race format (skate sprint and 10k/15k classic) as the following weekend in the World Cup, also held in Otepää,” continued Leccardi.

“This will then be the last race and form test before the World Championships in Lahti (Finland) start.”

Matt Bartolo

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