Olympic Selection!

So it’s finally official! I have been selected to compete for Australia in my first Olympic Games. Just like so many athletes, I have dreamed about the Olympics for more years than I’d like to admit. Particularly in the last year it has served as the biggest motivator imaginable. A dream that long ago seemed so distant and crazy, but when it becomes closer you manage to put your body and mind through more than you thought was ever possible. To finally have met the requirements and be given the opportunity which very few receive means so much. Now for part 2 of the dream – show that I deserve to be there through the results I achieve!

For those who read my previous blog, I found myself in a rather frustrating situation by getting sick before my last opportunity to lower my World ranking one last time. There was nothing I could do, however luck does have to come back around sometimes! I now find myself amazingly fortunate to be given a discretionary start in my best event – the 30km Skiathlon! So officially I have been selected to compete in the 15km Classic, 30km skiathlon, Freestyle Sprint and Classic Team Sprint. I am incredibly grateful for being given this discretionary 30km start, I pushed so hard to reach the line and just touching it but falling just short would have been a real heart-breaker. Thanks to all of those involved in helping this go through!

This crazy dream would not have become reality without the support from the many who have shown confidence in me and been right behind me all the way. They are the kind of people who will support you and show that they are proud when things go right, but more importantly will continue to show all this when the going gets tough and things don’t go completely as planned. For the last 5 years, the University of New South Wales, and UNSW Sport and Recreation have been my no.1 financial supporters. Its so nice to know that there is such a highly respected University in Australia that will support you no matter what sport you chose to pursue.

Although the local skiing community is very small in Australia, there are many individuals that make such a difference. Cooma Ski Club, NSW Ski association, NSWIS are some of the small organisations that contain some of the friendliest and most generous of people. The development of the sport is so heavily reliant on these organisations.

High Country Fitness is another that just continues to surprise me. Like I have said before, its a gym that a small town like Jindabyne is so lucky to have. When I finally retire, if I was half as generous and supportive as what Manuela is I would count that as an achievement!

1390750365564

To all these people, my Family and friends, I really can’t thank you enough! We are just finishing our Pre-Olympic camp here in Davos, SUI and once again Davos has treated us incredibly nicely. On Thursday we travel to Toblach, ITA for this weekend’s World Cup which consists of a 15km classic and skate sprint. We then travel straight to Sochi the following Monday where the Olympic Games will begin!

 

I will keep you all up to date with how my preparations for the Olympic events is coming along.

Chamonix OPA Cup and The Wrong Side of The Line

Back to Central Europe! The next races were the OPA (Continental) Cup races held in Chamonix, FRA. Many people have so frequently told me how beautiful Chamonix is, and now I can completely understand. With mountains that just continue to climb for more than 2km above you, it really is does just make you stop and look. I have a lot of interest in Glaciers; their size, movement and age is simply incredible! So to have quite a few in sight as I looked out my hotel window was really spectacular!

20140113_083933

I feel like I have talked a lot this year about the lack of snow and warm temperatures. In Chamonix it was no different and for a place at that altitude and so well known for good snowfalls it really shows just how warm this winter really is. Its a real scary thought that’s for sure… For Sunday’s race I had a brand new pair of skis from Atomic which had only been skied on once. Throughout the entire race I could feel the skis catching as they no doubt were being torn apart by the rocks and mud intermixed in the snow. The result – A brand new pair of skis looking worse than my rock skis! Luckily they will go back to the Atomic Factory for either replacement or a re-grind. Helps to have such a supportive sponsor!

Chamonix

The classic race was another real disappointment. This whole season I have struggled to get the skis right and once again I made the mistake of going with too much grip. The result was terrible leaving me to run back to the hotel wondering how and why my form had completely blown away somehow. The only thing that kept my spirits afloat was that on the hills I was matching lots of the fastest guys, it was just unknown how much the skis were effecting the result. Sunday’s race was changed from a 30km Skiathlon to a 18.75km skate individual start – Perfect!!! And for me the race was almost just that. I started relaxed and managed to catch a ride with an Italian skier ranked slightly higher than me. Gradually we were caught by a mini-pack which included Roland Clara from Italy. The pace was hot on the hills. Every hill I found myself fighting with everything I had to hold on, however each hill I managed to surprise myself! For 1.5 laps it stayed like this until Clara finished (he started a few laps ahead of me). After this the pack broke and it was me and another younger Austrian Skier. I skied with him right until the final climb where finally I popped. I lost very little time however and finished 54th with 66points.

CIMG9480

This is a European best for me and my best result this season which extinguishes any doubt about my form. I knew it was going to be close for the FIS points that I need to gain starts in the 30km and 50km at Sochi, however it turns out it is right on the line. I have an average now of 63.85 and I need 63.26 to make that cut-off. It really doesn’t get much closer, and unfortunately I’m on the wrong side of the line!

CIMG9676

I made the decision to skip the Polish World Cup where the chance of good points for me is very minimalistic due to it being a mass start. Instead I am now in Leysin where the Swiss Champs are being held. I had regained a lot of confidence after last weekend and was thinking very positively to cracking the result I need to secure it. Unfortunately as luck would have it, I have gotten sick. What’s more frustrating is that I haven’t been sick since late July!! It has been a race to try and get healthy in time however finally I have had to make the decision to not start. I skied today and my energy was much better than it has been for days, however definitely not even 90%. What is more concerning is the amount I’m coughing. I hate giving up and to me deciding not to race feels very much like that. It is time to be smart though. To crack the race I need I have to ski a good race, and in this health that doesn’t seem possible. In addition it is just too risky to push 100% when sick and particularly with lung issues. For many who have tried it before, it has jeopardised the rest of their seasons and that’s a risk I can’t afford to take particularly when there certainly may not be any reward.

 

It is now out of my hands. This is of course frustrating but it also somehow feels like a huge mental stress has been lifted. There is now nothing I can do that will change my fate in terms of Olympic Selection. The hard work has been done, I threw absolutely everything I had at it so at least I can be satisfied with that thought. Its now up to those involved with selection to see what happens regarding Olympic race selection.

 

Fingers Crossed, I will be sure to let you all know once I have an official notification of my position.

Piteå Scandinavian Cup and a late Swedish Xmas!

 So with all the dramas of trying to re-book flights and make the plane straight after a really tough race it was made so much nicer by the friendly face who met me in Stockholm. Thanks Linn, you know how much I appreciated it! What’s more is that it turns out that I didn’t quite miss out on all of the Swedish Christmas celebrations. We had our own belated celebration with Julgodis (Christmas Candy), Ginger Bread, Swedish Christmas board dinner, Julmust and of course my favourite Glögg!! – A type of Mulled wine with christmas flavours, sounds strange yes but sensational!! I’m sorry Australia, but Sweden definitely knows how its done when it comes to Christmas celebrations. We need to lift our game!

 20131104_143713 (1)

New Years celebrations were also pretty nice with a small gathering at a friends house. They have a young daughter who is absolutely in love with her children’s books. Everyone did the rounds of reading her some of her children’s books throughout the night, however for some reason I became her favourite. Must be because I pronounce all the Swedish words in a strange way, extra entertainment maybe?? It did however turn out quite good for me as it helped with my own Swedish learning which has proven to be a slow, hard task! Such easy phrases meant I could actually understand it though! Well that was until I got a little further along, reading aloud and suddenly everyone starts bursting with laughter. Turns out I had started reading the section about ‘Bajskorv’ which directly translates to ‘poo sausages’ and had absolutely no idea what I was saying!! All very funny in the end. For those who want to know how hard it is to learn Swedish, have a look at this quite amusing clip:

 [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IpHniCEHY7I]

This was a very relaxing and enjoyable couple of days and with the racing coming up being extremely important it was nice to think about something different for just a short time. But this was very short-lived as we travelled to Piteå on the Thursday were I joined the Australian Junior and U23 Team who were also competitng in the events. Unfortunately Sweden has been extremely unlucky with their winter so far. With much of the country without snow, and unbelievably warm temperatures, Piteå was no different… For a place that is more north than Fairbanks in Alaska, it was such a shock to see temperatures that just struggled to fall below 0!

 Piteå

The waxing proved very difficult in the soft conditions for Saturday’s classic race and I suffered badly with this. My body felt reasonable however just like like many others I struggled with ski speed. Sunday’s skate race was actually much better. I had skis that I was happy with and felt I skied reasonably strong. The result was still far off what I needed in terms of points, placing 89th. A disappointing weekend no doubt. However when looking at the results I was still very close to, or in front of, many of the other skiers I have been close to all season. The conditions were such that the times seem to just span out further. To achieve a sub 60 result on Saturday, I would have had to place in the top 12! Maybe a bit of an idea of how unusual or unreliable FIS points can be…

Anyway I tried and I’ve just got to keep positive for the next races in Chamonix – the next destination!

Campra Swiss Cup and a Mega Snowstorm

So this winter has been incredibly strange. With so much of Europe lacking any natural snow, many races have been cancelled or run on small artificial loops which consists of usually a 50/50 mud to snow mix. Our next stop was Campra for the Swiss Cup, and just like a lot of places, they too were struggling for snow. How this changed though!! The night before we travelled to Campra it snowed 1.5m of the heaviest snow I have ever seen! This was disastrous for us as the plan was to drop me to at Campra whilst Ewan and Phil would continue to Davos where Phil had to meet a lift going to Oberhof for the start of the Tour de Ski. We hit big difficulties about 2kms from Campra where the snow clearing machines were getting stuck! We therefore also got stuck in a snow bank which took a long time to escape from. Without being allowed any further the boys said ‘right Cal, your walking’, so off I went! Luckily a kind man from the snow clearing team came in a big Land Rover almost right away and took me the remainder of the way up. This was lucky indeed as power lines were across the road just a little further up. Not too sure what I would have done if I had of been on foot, luckily this guy seemed to know the power was in fact already off!

20131226_100752

The racing unfortunately did not go as I had hoped for. I felt flat for the sprint on Saturday and for Sunday’s 15km skate, I felt I skied ok but was definitely not firing the way I had in earlier races this season. By placing 13th it was by no means a disaster, however I was too far back to achieve the points that I have been aiming for by only managing 96. As you can see however, all that fresh snow created some pretty amazing views:

Campra

20131227_110210

Straight after the race it was another race to the airport as I had made the decision to race the Scandinavian Cup the following weekend in Piteå, SWE. The whole season I have worked on the basis that I need to give myself every opportunity to score the points I need to gain all starts in Sochi. I had decided to skip the tour for this very reason. This season my skating has been much better than classic and with Piteå the last individual 15km skate individual on the schedule before the deadline, I felt I should take the opportunity to see what I could do.  Unfortunately there was so much snow in Campra that the races were all delayed one day. This was tragic for me as it now meant that all my flights I had booked to Sweden were all useless and had already been costly due to the New Year Period. I re-booked the tickets with quite a large expense however just like so many times in my skiing career so far, NSWXC and its kind members have helped me cover my costs leading into Sochi to try and help me get these points. Thanks SO much to all the generous members who have helped me try and get to the Olympics this year. I really couldn’t have gotten this far without you!

World University Games and an Aussie Christmas

So being on the road travelling is where we spend lots of time over the race season. Unfortunately even more time is spent on the road when we decide to listen to August and his ‘amazing’ natural GPS system. Long story short is just go with old mate Tomtom, yeah he has a strange accent but realistically so does August… Good thing is the sights along the way from Davos to to Val Di Fiemme, ITA are pretty sweet, we had some time to admire them whilst August spent some time ‘recalculating’…

UNIGAMES 1

It was an incredibly tolling week. With racing in Davos on Saturday and Sunday for the World Cups then a schedule of Tuesday’s 10km Skate, Thursday’s relay, and Saturday’s 30km classic I certainly knew I had done too much by the end. The 10km Skate went reasonably well and I was quite satisfied to back up after a really tough weekend and place 48th with 76points. I took the 2nd classic leg of the relay and felt quite nervous as Phil skied a Rockn first leg and handed off to me in 10th place! Luckily I held that position and felt I skied strong. Unfortunately we lost a few positions in the later legs and managed to finish 15th. The 30km was a disaster… I was physically spent by the time Saturday came around and it was very clear that withdrawing from the event after 15km was unfortunately the best option.

CIMG9089

A small break over Christmas was exactly what I needed we enjoyed the company of a nice gathering of Aussies at the Australian Institute of Sport’s European Training Centre in Varese, ITA. Just the simple things like Australian News Papers, Aussie Power sockets, Aussie Style meals and Christmas lunch cooked by the legend of a chef Guido made it feel as close to being back home as possible! And of course, there was Vegemite and Milo… All a very relaxing couple of days, only dilemma for Phil was he proved to be the unluckiest when it came to the presents. He recieved a coin jar in the shape of a pig sitting with its bum in the air. You can guess where the coin slot is…

 

If I had raced well enough and achieved my points already that I need for full Olympic qualification, I had planned to take up the kind invitation to spend Christmas in Sweden. Linn is her name and maybe you will recieve more of an explanation later, however this is a blog about about my skiing career so keeping primarily to the topic is probably going to limit the details… Although she is a skier also, (a damn fast one too!), so maybe some details can be shared… Anyway, for her and her kind family to want my company meant a lot to me. Maybe I get to make up for missing it very soon, we will see!

Davos World Cup

Apologies for the huge delay in Posts. Here is a recap of the Davos World Cup back in December and over the next few days I will have it back up to date.

The Davos World Cup was used as the 3rd of our 4 Olympic Selection races. This along with the distance race being a 30km skate, I had high expectations for the race and felt excited to see what I could achieve in my first World Cup of the season. Unfortunately things didn’t go to plan and I found myself disappointed with the result. Breakfast did not sit well at all and throughout the whole warm up I knew something wasn’t right. I started and the feeling didn’t go away. I decided passing on the first feed was probably smart. It didn’t take too long for me to find that this was a great decision as breakfast decided to paint itself all over the next downhill section… Once that issue was gone it was like a switch had flicked and all of a sudden I felt much stronger. Unfortunately I took the feed next lap after 15km and turned out the streak left on the first lap was just the undercoat… This was worrying, 30km usually requires significant electrolyte intake, not loss. Luck still didn’t show itself; I continued to feel better but I missed the 3rd feed and that was a crucial one. The final lap was back to another disaster, energy was rapidly disappearing and with a left quad cramping for the whole last 5km it was a suffer fest with no rewards. The result could have been worse, but I was gutted. I came in 63rd with 95 points. I knew I had good shape and knew I was capable of a great result that day.

20131129_164515

I competed in the Skate sprint the following day, however the day before had taken its toll.. I was far from sparky however I did get one thing out of racing at least. It was my first sprint of the season and I was happy with how I skied technically – sometimes it important to try and take something good out of a race even if it didn’t give you a result you had hoped for. What was a much more successful achievement however was our Banana bread cooking skills. I think we pretty much mastered it – no measurements required and just the simple theory of ‘more is better’ was working out pretty good! Unfortunately this theory has its limits….

CIMG8583

Davos is a magical place! I love it here and despite the lack of success on the race track, I still enjoyed admiring the mountains and the great training conditions. Next stop, World University Games! Its a packed schedule coming up.