July 31, 2012 (New South Wales, AUS) – The 2012 FIS Australia / New Zealand Cup (ANC) for cross-country skiing kicked into action last weekend with the first events of the Australian Championship at Perisher Valley in New South Wales. Snow conditions have been very good in Australia since mid-June, with a number of club races and state championships already held at Falls Creek and Perisher Valley.
The 2011 female ANC winner Esther Bottomley made a strong start toward defending her title, winning both the Freestyle Sprint on July 28 and the 5km Classic on July 29. The runner-up on both days was Australian Junior Champion Lucy Glanville, with another junior Anna Trnka taking the bronze medal in the sprint and Aimee Watson rounding out the podium in the 5km.
In the men’s series the competition was much tighter, and after the opening two races the series is in a three-way tie between 2011 ANC winner Callum Watson, 2011 Australian Biathlon champion Alex Almoukov, and rising star Phillip Bellingham. Almoukov won the A-final of the Freestyle Sprint several metres ahead of a photo-finish between Bellingham and Watson. Watson came back firing the next day to win the 10km Classic, but with Bellingham taking second place again and Almoukov finishing third, all three skiers are sitting on 160 points in the series.
The next races in the ANC take place at the Snow Farm in New Zealand from August 9-12, where a number of Russian and Japanese athletes will provide tough competition. The series then swings back to Australia for the final three events at Falls Creek, concluding with the 42km Kangaroo Hoppet. A strong field is expected for the final races at Falls Creek, including Russian World Cup stars Alexander Legkov and Ilia Chernousov, other Russians and several athletes from Switzerland and Sweden.
ANC Standings after 2 races
1. Esther Bottomley (AUS) 200
2. Lucy Glanville (AUS) 160
3. Aimee Watson (AUS) 110
4. Anna Trnka (AUS) 110
5. Georgia Merritt (AUS) 73
1. Callum Watson (AUS) 160
2. Alex Almoukov (AUS) 160
3. Phillip Bellingham (AUS) 160
4. Mark VanderPloeg (AUS) 100
5. Mark Pollock (AUS) 72
For more news on racing in Australia head to: www.ausxc.com