Lake Mountain ambassadors, Casey Wright and Kat Paul (profiled here), have blitzed women’s cross country skiing in Australia this season, claiming all the major titles between them.
Their clean sweep of the 2015 race calendar, against some fierce national and international competition, sets them up strongly for the World Championships in Romania in February. While Casey will not be competing, it makes Kat the hot Australasian favourite at the New Zealand Continental Cup from August 28 to 30.
Looking further ahead, the talented elite athletes are shaping up well to qualify for the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.
In their latest coup, Casey, 20, from Don Valley/Launching Place and Kat, 19, from Taggerty, starred at the Kangaroo Hoppet, Australia’s premier international cross country ski marathon at Falls Creek on Saturday August 22.
The Hoppet is a member of the prestigious Worldloppet series and this year attracted more than 1100 entrants from 23 nations across the 42km Hoppet, 21km Birkebeiner and 7km Joey events.
In her debut Hoppet, Casey won the Australian women’s title and placed third overall behind two elite international skiers, whilst Kat was the overall winner in the Birkebeiner after being the first female to cross the finish line. Casey won the Birkebeiner last year with Kat a close second.
Casey’s younger brother, Abe, 18, placed a very respectable fourth overall in the in the men’s Birkebeiner.
Both members of the Australian national team, Casey and Kat’s strong performance this season is on the back of a stint training and competing in the United States and Europe where they clocked up some very respectable results and placings. Abe is also a member of the national team and spent part of his summer training in the United States.
Upon returning to Australia, the impressive athletes have consolidated their form resulting in Casey rising to become the top Australian woman in the 5km Classic and 10km Freestyle events while Kat is at the top of her league in both the Classic and Freestyle sprints.
Their clean sweep of national titles flags a changing of the guard at the elite level, with this younger generation stepping up.
In the final round of national titles at Falls Creek on August 15, Kat put on a particularly stunning performance in the Classic Sprint, finishing ahead of elite international skiers Maria Graefnings from Sweden and Barbara Jezersek from Slovenia. Not only was Kat the first Australian as she lunged across the line, she was the overall winner.
A strong climber, Kat really fired up when she gained an edge ahead of Jezersek and Graefnings on a hill very early in the race. It gave her just the boost she needed and she drew on every ounce of power to “lunge” over the finish line, knowing that Graefnings was just a heartbeat behind her.
Finn Marsland, Cross Country Skiing High Performance Manager with Ski & Snowboard Australia, said that Casey and Kat had clearly stepped it up this winter to be consistently the top two Australian women and to have the 2016 World Championships in their sights.
“Kat’s performance to win the Classic Sprint final at Falls Creek ahead of Maria and Barbara was particularly impressive,” Finn said.
Casey has her sights set on the under 23s at the World Championships in Romania while Kat is vying for the Juniors.
For further information on the Kangaroo Hoppet and the 2015 results, visit http://www.hoppet.com.au
For further information about cross country skiing, particularly racing, visit http://ausxc.com
For further information about cross country skiing at Lake Mountain, Melbourne’s closest alpine resort, lessons and resort initiatives to raise the profile of the sport, visit http://lakemountainresort.com.au