Monday, December 27, 2010

Italian Christmas at home

After the very familiar Munich-Singapore-Melbourne flight (over 24 hours), I finally made it home for Christmas. I have had only one Christmas at home in the past 10 years, so as you can imagine I was pretty excited to come home for the occasion! Awaiting me in Australia was beautiful 25-degree sunny weather. A big difference to being in the freezer of Europe!

True to Crema tradition, we had a big Italian family lunch with 25 family members. On this year’s menu was lobster, oysters, prawns (Australian tradition) as well as suckling pig, a smoked leg of ham, home-made lasagne (grazie Nonna), vitello tornato, tiramisu, grappa, panettone etc etc… the list goes on!

 (The dogs awaiting their gifts, Diesel and Mya)

(Preparing the enormous smoked ham-on-the-bone)

(Mum with the suckling pig)

(My family)

(The Crema kids; Giulia, Nick and I)

(Big family lunch)

(Crema girls; Olivia, Giulia, Jessica and I)

(Jess and I)

It was a great Christmas and definitely worth the long trip home to spend time with family and friends.

I am now heading back to Munich this afternoon where we will start the second block of the season. The first block was mostly training with one Europa Cup and two World Cup’s in the final week. The second block is basically all racing. It means travelling every few days from mountain to mountain, country to country, and basically living straight out of a suitcase for the next two and a half months. Let’s just say after years of doing this, we ski racers have become some of the world’s best packers!

First up on the race agenda is St. Johann World Cup in Austria, which is the famous night race. Every year this race attracts huge crowds and is generally one of the most anticipated races of the year. It is raced on double-injected ice, a very steep pitch and under the stadium lights. So I’ve definitely got something to look forward to!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

First World Cups of the Season, San Candido

The racing season is now well on it’s way with the first two World Cup Ski Cross events held this weekend in San Candido, Italy. After an 11th place finish amongst a strong field of World Cup girls in the Europa Cup last week, I was feeling confident and ready to race.

(The ski cross start with the incredible Dolomites in the backdrop) 

(The beautiful town of San Candido)

The Dolomites course was turny and fast, with some big jumps and smooth features. On Friday we had qualifications for the first race. I finished in 23rd place, so missed out on qualifying for finals which was a bit disappointing. This year they decided to take only the top 16 girls for finals as opposed to 32 last year. It definitely makes the competition much tougher in fighting for a spot for finals. In the second race I finished 25th. I was definitely hoping for much better results at these first World Cups. I feel that I am skiing well however just didn’t manage to deliver on the day. All I can do now is put these races behind me, stay positive and look forward to the next World Cup in Austria in early January.

My teammates on other hand, Scott Kneller and Anton Grimus, definitely didn’t fail to deliver. Kneller won the second World Cup by a hands reach, beating Swiss skier Alex Fiva at the last minute over the line. We were absolutely ecstatic. I think everyone was rooting for Scotty, being the underdog in the big final. It’s Australia’s first Ski Cross World Cup victory ever, and Australia’s first World Cup win of the season. Young Grimus finished 9th which was also an incredible result, being only his second World Cup Ski Cross ever. Two great results for the Australian Team! Congratulations boys.

On another positive note, the AIS (Australian Institute of Sport) annual awards night was held last Monday night in Canberra. I was awarded ‘AIS Education Athlete of the Year,’ an award which recognises athletes who have achieved academic success at the same time as balancing the demands of their sport. OWI aerial skier Lydia Lasilla won the AIS Athlete of the Year. So in total two awards for Winter Sports, which is a great achievement for winter sports.

(Members of the Australian Ski Cross Team) 

 (Scott Kneller wins gold; Australia's first ski cross World Cup victory)

(Medal winners)

(Aussie staff: Marcos, ski technician, and Nick, physio)

I am now sitting in Munich airport enjoying a bowl of coffee (literally) and a croissant. I've enjoyed the past four weeks in Europe. Training has been great, and although it was not the start to the world cup season I was hoping for, I am sure there will be good things to come this season! I’m about to fly back to Melbourne for a short 6-day Christmas break; just enough time to see family and friends and soak up some sun before heading back to winter! 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

San Candido

After an 11th place on Europa Cup in Pitztal, Austria, we are now in San Candido for the first world cups of the season.

Today we had our official training day. The course runs really well... some nice jumps with smooth landings, and great hard icy snow. It is on the same hill as last year, however the course is quite different. Slightly longer and smoother running.

Tomorrow we have qualifications with finals to be held on Saturday. A second world cup on the same track will be held on Sunday.

I'm feeling confident after training today, and am looking forward to the competition tomorrow. After months of hard work it's finally time to show off what I've got!

Will update you after the race.

Here are some of the best photos from the week....

(Aussie ski cross team van)

(View of Lienz from Zettersfeld gondola)

(San Candido)

(Tuning room... and that's not even all of them!)

(Delisioso! Speck, rocket and parmesan pizza at the number one pizzeria in San Candido)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

On the road to the first races of the season

Following two days off in Lienz, I was very ready to hit the slopes again. Although a day off is necessary to rest and recover, it does actually get a little boring! We occupied ourselves with a visit to the Christmas markets in Lienz, a gym session as well as a game of squash in the afternoon.

Yesterday, after a failed attempt at a day training day at Molltaler Glacier, we decided to go skiing at Zettersfeld. High winds and poor weather conditions closed the glacier which meant that we couldn’t train on the skier cross track as originally planned. Instead, we freeskied at Zettersfeld, a small resort 5 minutes from Lienz, Austria. The weather was warm and foggy, and the snow was soft… it actually reminded me a little of skiing in Australia. Such a change from the -25˚ C freezer days in Hintertux last week! 

(Not a bad view from my bedroom window!)

(Anton and I in the gondola)
Now, once again, we’re back on the road living out of our suitcases. We’re on our way to Pitztal, Austria today for the first skier cross races of the season; two Europa Cups. On the way we stopped for a free ski at San Candido, Italy, where the first two World Cup’s of the season will be held next week. It was a good opportunity to ski next to the race hill, and to get a feel for the terrain. The course is yet to be built and the race is less than a week away!  2 hours skiing and a delicious speck, rocket and parmiggiano pizza later, we’re back on the road for another 3 hours.

Tomorrow is the official training day on the track, then race Saturday and Sunday.

Will keep you posted!!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Christmas markets, crepes and a powder day... life doesn't get much better!

After four rather cold days of training on Stubai Glacier, we took the day off to rest and recover. We spent the morning in Innsbruck exploring the Christmas markets. The markets are full of traditional Austrian and European Christmas foods; sauerkraut, spatzle, kaiserschmarren, roasted marshmallows, and my favourite, crepes! Innsbruck is one of my favourite cities. It's modern and full of young people, yet has one of the most beautiful old towns I've ever seen. It's almost like a fairytale setting.

(Innsbruck old town)

(Roasting marshmallows at the Innsbruck Christmas markets) 
(Nutella crepes... you can see the joy in my face) 

On Wednesday morning we drove to Hintertux glacier. We are based here for the next four days where we will be training with a number of teams on a ski cross course.

After 6 days of average weather conditions, this morning appeared to be just like any other average day. Heading up the gondola, it was foggy and snowing like it has been for the past week. However as we reached the summit, we surprisingly broke through the cloud. The view was spectacular... blue skies, sunshine and endless mountains. Plus there was over a foot of fresh snow waiting for us to enjoy. I can't even remember my last great powder day, so as you can imagine, I was very excited for those first turns in the fresh, light snow.

(Hintertux Glacier summit, 3200m) 

(View from the summit)

(Tyrolean mountain ranges)

(Perfect unskied terrain awaiting us)

(Powder in Hintertux)

(True face shot)

It's still snowing up on the mountain, so hopefully another powder day tomorrow!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Out of the sun and into the freezer

On Wednesday I left Melbourne at a beautiful 35˚C and arrived in Austria at minus 25˚C. A 60˚ temperature drop in 24 hours. Definitely a shock to the body!

I am now back at Stubai Glacier in Austria, where we spent two weeks training in October. Things are looking a little different now compared to when I was here 5 weeks ago. The valley is white and the sun makes an appearance for only a limited number of hours each day. Lets just say it’s no longer ‘Sound of Music’ green like it was in spring. This is Europe in November!

It is still beautiful however. The rugged mountains are snow capped, and fresh snow blankets all the trees.

(Trees covered in fresh snow)

(Heading up to Stubai Glacier at 3200m)

(Windy at the peak. Photo courtesy of Anton)

(The snow cat prepares the skier cross track)

After we arrived on Thursday morning, I spent about 5 hours at a special race boot-fitting shop to get my new Nordica boots sorted. Unlike any normal ski boot, race boots need to be extremely tight. My ski boots are in fact 2 sizes smaller than my normal shoes.
I had foam-liners made, which is a custom-fitting boot liner. Foam is injected into the liner through tubes in order to mould perfectly to your feet. The boots now fit like a glove. They’re tight and a bit painful, but extremely responsive. Any tiny move with your foot is transferred straight to your skis and onto snow.

(Foam injected liners)

We have now had two days training on snow. It is great to be back on skis again. I always love the feeling of that first run when you haven’t skied in a while (not that 5 weeks is a very long time… although for me it feels like ages!)

(Windy, eery and cold on the glacier)

(Covered head-to-toe in -25 degrees)

(Anton Grimus and I)

We are training on a skier cross track up in the glacier, working on features and some head-to-head skiing. After a week of training here, we will head to Hintertux glacier for some training with the German team. They have a start gate set up there as well as a small course. Then our first competition of the season kicks off with a Europa Cup in Pitztal, Austria. This will be a great chance to practice before the first World Cup of the season one week later in San Candido, Italy.

Until then, Auf Wiedersehen!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

AIS / Sydney training camp

Last week the Australian Ski Cross National Team headed to Canberra and Sydney for a 5-day camp before we depart for Europe.

We started off the week with fitness testing at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra. This was the first time I had ever been to the AIS. As an AIS athlete, we will now be using the world-class facilities more and more for fitness testing and training.

We began with anthropology testing, which is a measure of our percentage of body fat. Along with this, we used the AIS’s extremely high-tech “body scanner”, which takes a 3D image of our body, and is used to analyse muscle mass and body composition. Pretty interesting!

Next was our favourite… the VO2 max test, which is a maximal aerobic test that measures cardiovascular fitness. Fun! It was great to see some large improvements after such a heavy training period. It’s good to know that all the hard work is paying off!

(VO2 max test on the bike) 

(AIS lab) 
Over the following day, we did some explosive strength testing as well as made use of the AIS’s incredible recovery facilities. The recovery centre is equipped with enormous hot tubs, cold pools and whirl pools, all set to highly specific temperatures…. a little more high-tech than jumping in the freezing glacier-water river in Austria!

On Tuesday we drove to Sydney’s Northern Beaches where we spent the next two days training in Narrabeen. Over Wednesday and Thursday, we did a total of 8 enduring training sessions (about 6-8 hours of training per day).

This was the schedule:


Session 1: 6am- Beach sprints and exercises plus a swim in Warriewood beach.

(Warriewood beach)

Session 2: Strength testing and anaerobic testing (maximum sprint for 30 seconds on the wind-gate bike to test lactate threshold and power output… the longest 30 seconds of my life!). On top of this, we did the beloved ‘farmers run,’ where you carry your body weight whilst running with dumbbells for 400m, or alterteratively half your body weight for 800m. About 6-7 minutes of pain.

Session 3: 1 hour bush run in the Narrabeen hills.

Session 4: 1 hour session of ‘Crossfit’ – a strength / cardio-based circuit session.


Session 5: 5:30am – 2-hour bike ride to Sydney’s ‘West Head’ (very hilly).

(At the top of the lookout point at West Head, Northern Sydney)

(View of the morning sunrise)

Session 6: Soccer / agility training.

Session 7: 1 hour of sea kayaking.

Session 8: Boxing.

By Friday, I was a little worried I wouldn’t be able to hold my pen for my final Construction exam! All-in-all however, a great week of training.

It is now that time of year again! On Wednesday I leave for Europe. We are heading back to Stubai, Austria, for a block of training before we begin racing. Our first event is a Europa Cup ski cross in Pitztal, Austria, and then on to the first World Cups of the season in San Candido, Italy.

Will keep you posted with how the first few weeks in Europe go!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Melbourne training camp

Last week the National Ski Cross Team had a training camp in Melbourne. Like most off-snow training camps, we try to mix it up a bit for variety, the chance to try new things, and have a bit of fun!
Matt Lyons, Head Coach, ran the training camp with help from Shawn Flemming, coach of the newly formed Development Ski Cross Team, as well as Anthony Khoury, OWI acrobatics coach.

We started off the week with wind tunnel testing out at RMIT University in Bundoora. They have a special lab where they test the aerodynamics of a variety of things; from formula one cars to cyclists to bobsleigh to skier cross racers. Basically the aim was to figure out, a) which position is fastest whilst racing, and b) what type of clothing is most aerodynamic at high speed. After over 2 hours in the wind tunnel, getting in and out of a tuck with a maximum speed of 70km/hour, the session was tiring but a success! Hopefully this will give us a bit of an edge leading into this coming world cup season. Every millisecond counts in this sport!

(Preparing my tuck position for the wind tunnel) 

(In the wind tunnel)

(Traveling at a simulated speed of 70km/hour)

The following morning we headed to Lilydale at 5:45am for water jumping. It’s a great chance to practise jumping without having the fear of landing hard on ice. Water is definitely a more comfortable landing surface if you happen to land on your head! After a much needed coffee at that hour, I was ready to get going. We geared up with our retro ski gear and jumped all morning (about 30 jumps).

(Anton, Harry, myself and Sami ready to hit the jumps)


(Having a bit of fun and practicing our 360s) 

We jumped again Thursday morning, and for something a little different, we had an ice hockey session at the new OWI Ice House at Docklands in the afternoon. After an hour or so of ice skating drills (which are harder than they look!), we got straight into it, and had a lot of fun. Our competitive sides definitely came out in the ice hockey match!

(Kitted up and feeling like a pro... that is before I step onto the ice....)

(Australian Ski Cross Team, turned hockey team!)

On Friday night, I attended the I Ski For Tommy Gala, which was a great success. Over 150 people came to show their support for the cause, which raises money for the Victorian Melanoma Service in honour of the late Tom Mathias. As an athlete ambassador for the organization, I’m proud to welcome aboard Jarryd Williams, Australian halfpipe snowboarder, onto the ambassador team.

 (Mark Cicchiello, founder of ISFT, his father and myself)

For the next few weeks I will be in Melbourne, finishing off assessments and studying for uni exams, as well as training in the gym.

I’ll keep you posted with how things are going!