News & Events

Local XC skiers on track for Olympic selection

News Article: 08/03/2017 by Sandra Bucovaz

Two Lake Mountain cross country skiers and former ambassadors for the resort Casey Wright and Kat Paul have ramped up their Olympics campaign after strong performances on the international stage throughout the northern hemisphere winter. 

Given they are still relatively young skiers, the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea may be out of reach, however, Beijing in 2022 is certainly looking promising.

 ‘They have both progressed a long way in the past two years, from being promising juniors to knocking on the door for Winter Olympic selection,’ said Finn Marsland, Cross Country Skiing Program Director for Ski & Snowboard Australia (SSA), the peak snowsports body in Australia:

‘It just goes to show that hard work and a professional attitude to training really pays off. I look forward to seeing how high they can climb on the international stage in the coming years.’

 

CASEY WRIGHT

Featured Picture: Casey Wright shows her stuff in the World U23 Champs Classic Sprint in Utah. Credit photographer: Steve Fuller, flyingpointroad.com

In recent weeks Casey, who is based in Anchorage on a sports scholarship, has notched up impressive results in major international events in Japan and America, further consolidating a great season with the University of Alaska cross country ski team.

The gutsy 22-year old from Don Valley/Launching Place was third in the 1.4km women’s classic sprint at the Asian Winter Games in Sapporo, Japan, the best result for the Australian team at the eight-day meet which attracted 1,200 elite athletes from 32 nations across a range of winter sports.

In the lead up to Sapporo where she also took out 11th place in the 5km classic and 15th in the 10km freestyle races , Casey showed her mettle in a threatening debut performance in the fiercely competitive Under 23 World Championships in Utah, America to finish 25th.  It was her first time in the event and a thrilling result for the young skier whose goal for the past three years was to finish in the top 30.

‘I’m skiing like a totally different athlete than  I have in past seasons which shows how much progress I have made since moving to Anchorage 18 months ago,’ said Casey who is juggling her Health Science degree studies with cross country ski training and racing with the university team.

‘I am training with some of the best skiers in the USA. Being surrounded by faster skiers and an incredibly supportive team has allowed me to push my limits and see what I am fully capable of,’ Casey added.

Her recent results have certainly bolstered her determined campaign to one day wear green and gold at a Winter Olympics.

‘I would love to represent Australia in Pyeong Chang next year, however I am still a young and developing skier and there is some incredibly tough competition in terms of Australian skiers. Regardless of next year's outcome, my sights are firmly on Beijing for the 2022 Winter Olympics.’

Casey described Sapporo as an amazing experience: ‘Representing  Australia in the Asian Games was an insight into how an Olympic event is run. It was also a great opportunity to compete against the best Asian skiers and see where I currently stack up.  A lot of the skiers were unknown to me and quite a bit older, so it gave me a chance to see where a few more years of training and development will take me.’

‘Although everyone wants to win every race, this doesn't necessary make you fast or a better skier. It's by racing against people who a stronger, fitter, faster and overall better skiers that you can make the greatest improvements and this is what I got to do in Japan. Thank you to the event organisers and the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) for the great event!’

 

 

Kat Paul in Estonia

 

KAT PAUL

Meanwhile, 20-year old Kat Paul from Taggerty has also shown her grit during the northern hemisphere winter, her first international season as a senior athlete.

To step up her preparations, Kat again headed to Sun Valley at the end of last year to train and race. November and early December saw her race very successfully on the USA Super Tour qualifying for senior finals in all of the sprint races she started. Next was the US Championships and U23 World Championships both in Utah, USA but unfortunately Kat was unwell. However, she had returned to form for her European stint which is drawing to close this week.

A particular highlight was the recent Nordic World Ski Championships in Lahti, Finland where Kat  was the youngster on the Australian team and also experiencing her first major championship. Kat was a force in the Australian women’s relay team which finished 15th, the best-ever green and gold result in the event and even moreso  given they did not get lapped whereas a strong team like Ukraine was. The last time Australia finished in the tough event was 1993 when Kat’s mum Sandra was on the team!

Kat also placed third in the 5km Classic qualification race at Lahti and she and team mate Jessica Yeaton finished 17th in the team sprint, another best Australian placing at a World Championship.

Overall, the whole Australian team performed exceptionally well with just about everybody performing their best-ever results in super tough fields on a super tough course.

Earlier in the season Kat qualified for the World Cup Sprint in Otepaa, Estonia which was her World Cup debut. As part of her preparation she raced in the Estonia National Champs which went well and then followed through with a great race in the World Cup placing 54 out of 68.

To complete her season Kat qualified for and raced in the Drammen World Cup Classic Sprint in Norway.  She is now on her way but without much time to catch her breath as she will be head down into her undergraduate studies for a Bachelor of Business (Sport Management).