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Positive vibes powering cross country crew to PyeongChang

Published 25 January 2018 (AEDT)

© Aus XC

CROSS COUNTRY SKIING: Having recorded some history-making results in recent weeks the Australian cross country team will take plenty of confidence into the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Games.

Phil Bellingham and Callum Watson will again wear the green and gold having competed alongside one another at the Sochi 2014 Games.

Barbara Jezersek is off to her third Games, but first as an Australian, while Jessica Yeaton will be on Olympic debut in PyeongChang.

“It is an incredible feeling of accomplishment and something I have looked forward to for years now,” Yeaton said.

“All the hard work I have put in has been inspired by the Olympic dream in the back of my mind.”

Despite having been to a Games before, Bellingham was equally excited.  

“It is a massive honour to be selected for my second Olympic Games, this goes above and beyond any dreams I ever had a as a child growing up,” he said.

“It's a little different to my first Games as I know what it's all about, I'm dealing with the nerves, distractions and hype a lot better than last time.

“I think that will give me the opportunity to focus more specifically on my racing and further improve on my results from last time.”

Each of the Team members will be entered into four individual events as well as a men’s and women’s Team Sprint Freestyle event.

The Australian contingent recently got their chance to test out their combinations in the Team events in Dresden and they managed to surprise many of the more renowned cross country nations.

Yeaton and Jezersek qualified for the women’s final before finishing tenth, while Bellingham and Watson only just missed out as they finished 12th. Bellingham also made his first sprint final at a World Cup event in Dresden.

“After some historical results by the entire team the past couple of weeks, spirits are definitely the highest I've ever seen them,” Yeaton said.  

“We are all really inspired to take the momentum we've gained recently into the Olympics, and hopefully achieve even more great results.”

The team has been busy competing throughout Europe against the world’s best over the past three months and say the time on the road has brought the team even closer together.

“The morale of the team is full of excitement and with some good results coming through from many athletes, everyone is working well off all the positive energy,” Watson said.

“The feeling of being selected for my second Olympics is not dissimilar to The first - it's incredible.

“From directly after the last Olympics I had to overcome some serious injuries and even more recently, the setbacks have been challenging to overcome.

“I'm incredibly proud and excited to be able to compete for Australia once again.”

It is that positivity that has helped push Jezersek to her third Olympic appearance having lined up for Slovenia in 2010 and 2014.  

“It feels amazing as no one thought I would make it to a third Games,” she said.

“I’ve been training since I started to work towards my Australian citizenship in 2014 and I’ve made a lot of progress in the past year and a half

“I feel honoured to represent my new country and will do my best to make Australia proud.”

Jezersek secured her best result at the Vancouver 2010 Games when she finished 17th in pursuit, a result if she matched would be Australia’s best at an Olympic Games.

“It's always a goal to beat my best result, but anything can happen.

“The preparations are going well and the last world cup races before the Games will tell me where I am at.”

Jezersek and Yeaton will get Australia’s PyeongChang cross country campaign underway on Day 1 (February 10) of the Games as they take on the Skiathlon event at the Alpensia Cross Country Centre. Cross country competition will run throughout the Games with the Aussie women also the last athletes in green and gold to compete in PyeongChang on the afternoon of Day 16 (February 25).

Australia’s best result to date in an individual event is 33rd in the men’s 15km classic by Chris Heberle at the 1988 Calgary Games. Australia has only twice competed in team sprint events, both of them men’s competitions, placing 20th in 2010 and 21st in 2014. 

UPDATE: 2014 Olympian Aimee Watson and debutant Casey Wright will also represent Australia in cross country skiing after quota reallocation on January 26 saw five more athletes selected on the Team, taking the cross country skiing contingent to 6 athletes. Find out more HERE.

Matt Bartolo
olympics.com.au

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