WANAKA, New Zealand (10 September, 2016) – Elite international athletes joined home-grown talent at Snow Farm near Wanaka today as this season’s National Cross-Country Skiing Championships got underway.
Waiorau Nordic Sports Club and Wanaka Biathlon Club members along with enthusiastic age group skiers raced around the same course set for Winter Olympians and FIS World Champions earlier in the day.
First to finish was Louis Jones from Wanaka who won the men’s Under-18 age group ahead of Campbell Wright. Campbell’s younger brother Daniel won the Under-12s followed by Ben McMurray while the open category saw Martin Chudomel, originally from the Czech Republic, win from Snow Sports New Zealand Cross-Country Skiing Committee members Ernie Malushnig (2nd) and Ian McNabb (3rd).
The women’s open category was won by visiting US student Bri Paulsen ahead of daughter and mother Joanna Jones and Mary Lee, Snow Farm founder and trustee. Mary just edged New Zealand Winter Olympic skeleton racer Katherine Eustace in a tight finish for the final podium spot.
Among the juniors, Olivia Jones matched brother Louis’ victory in the Under-18s from Fiona Murray. Hana Jones – Joanna’s 7-year-old daughter and Mary Lee’s granddaughter – kept the family tradition alive by taking the Under-12 girl’s title from her school friend Georgina Titterton for whom this was the very first time on cross-country skis.
Junior national championship medals were presented by US Nordic Ski Team members Jessie Diggins and Andy Newell, winners of this morning’s FIS Australia New Zealand Cup (ANC) Classic Mass Start races.
Bri Paulsen, studying for one semester at the University of Otago, was especially thrilled to receive her medal from Jessie Diggins as they are both from the same state of Minnesota.
Team USA took all the FIS ANC podium positions today ahead of Korean and Australian athletes. Two-time Winter Olympian Andy Newell backed up his Sprint Classic victory from yesterday with a clear win in the men’s 15km race from teammates Ben Saxton (2nd) and Noah Hoffman (3rd).
In the women’s 10km race, yesterday’s 1-2 was reversed as 2013 Team Sprint World Champion Jessie Diggins took the win ahead of Ida Sargent with Sophie Caldwell repeating her third place from the Sprint Classic race.
Jessie Diggins said it was a beautiful day to race.
“All the volunteers and organisers here at Snow Farm did an amazing job. The course was perfectly groomed and well marked. There was a flatter section then a big climb so you had to figure out your pacing which was great practice as our competition season is just starting,” she said.
“Normally striding on a really steep hill isn’t a particular strength of mine so it was nice to embrace the climb and say ‘OK this is where I’m going to try to make a move’ and try to make it stick. It was fun to just try something a little out of my normal range!”
Results for all races will be posted on the event page of the Snow Farm website at www.snowfarmnz.com with the ANC results also posted on the FIS website at www.fis-ski.com.
Racing concludes tomorrow (Sunday) with the Freestyle Interval Start. FIS Cross-Country Skiing ANC races will begin at 9.30am over a 5km course for women and 10km for men. New Zealand National Championships for all age groups in the same event will follow at 12.00pm over shorter distances but the same course.
Entry for the national championships is at Snow Farm on the morning of the race. Anyone wanting more information on age group categories and entry fees should visit the Snow Farm website.
Image caption 1: Eventual winner Jessie Diggins leads Ida Sargent and Sophie Caldwell (all USA) in the FIS ANC Classic Mass Start women's race (credit - Snow Farm NZ).
Image caption 2: Snow Farm founder and trustee Mary Lee greets winner Jessie Diggins (USA) at today's post-race flower ceremony (credit - Snow Farm NZ).