Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas the Sicilian way

Unfortunately the opening World Cup’s of the season in San Candido didn’t quite go to plan. I skied well in training, however didn’t manage to lay down extremely fast runs in qualifications. The level and depth of competition in the women’s has really stepped up this year, which is great to see. There were 42 girls in the start, and only the top 16 qualified for finals. I finished 28th on the first day, and 22nd on the second day.

(Jen, Sami and I on race day) 

(The Germans and the Aussies watching training from the side)

(What's not more Aussie than a kick of the footy in the backstreets of San Candido)

I have just spent five days in Palermo, Sicily, with my sister and Italian relatives. I have had a great time; a true to Italian-style Christmas. It was quite a “family” event, with plenty of great food and wine.

(La famiglia!)

(View of Palermo from a rooftop)

(My sister Giulia and I happy to be spending Christmas together)

(La Pandorra.... Italian Christmas cake. So good!)

Yesterday I met the team back in Austria, where we will spend the next week training for the St. Johann World Cup event, which is on the 6th and 7th of January. I’m looking forward to this event. It’s the biggest and most renowned on the circuit, and usually attracts thousands of fans to the ‘night’ race under lights. Will keep you updated with results!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Back to San Can for the season opener

After 3 weather days in Saas Fee, where the risk of avalanche meant the top lifts were closed, we finally managed to get a great day of training on the ski cross track with the Swedish and Swiss National Ski Cross Teams. Although the track was short, it was great to hit some jumps, and get back into some head-to-head competition.

(Anton and I at the base of the gondi in Saas Fee)

(The sun is finally shining after 3 days of snow and fog)

 (High winds at the peak)

On Saturday we had an early start (4am), and drove for 10 hours back to Stubai, and then to Leogang, Austria. A long day! We has a quick pit-stop at the Innsbruck Christmas markets, which is one of my all-time favourites in Europe. We spent the next two days training with the Aussie Development Ski Cross Team, pulling starts out of a brand new start gate.

 (The Australian Ski Cross Team in Zettersfeld, Austria)

(Showing off our new race uniform... yes, we look like zee Germans)
 (The ultimate afternoon training snack... peanut butter and banana on toast, and a Milo. Reminds me of home!)

 (A beautiful old building in Innsbruck old town)

(Anton rocking a pretty sweet mo)

Yesterday we arrived in San Candido, Italy, where the first Ski Cross World Cup of the season is held every season. After months and months of training, I'm excited to get back into racing again. Today we maximized our day off by checking out some prospective Sochi 2014 uniforms for Australia. I think we found a winner...

(How convenient! The All-In-One... jacket, hood, face mask AND goggles)

We also dropped by my all-time favourite pizzeria, Il Teatro, for a 'Buon Gustaio'. I've been hanging out for that delicious pizza since we were here last year!

Tomorrow we have qualifications, and then finals on Saturday. There's a big field of athletes here, with 42 girls and 75 boys. Should be a great race! Until next time...

Monday, December 5, 2011

Back in Europe and praying for snow

After loading up my ski bag with boxes and boxes of Carmen’s muesli bars, Milo, and some Cadbury hazelnut chocolate (the good stuff…), I am all set for the four-month winter season ahead.

Last Tuesday I left Melbourne at a sunny 35 degrees, and arrived in Munich where it was just below zero. A bit of a shock to the body at first, but it’s not particularly cold for Europe at this time of year. In fact there’s not much snow at all. It doesn’t look like it’s snowed once since we left Europe back in October.

(Something cute I saw in Austria during my travels...)

(Marcos and the van)

(It's times like these when I wish I did beach volleyball. All I'd need is a couple pairs of bathers instead of all of this!)

Luckily, there’s still snow sitting up on the glaciers above 3,200m. We went back to Stubai glacier for a few days of training, and now we’re in Saas Fee, Switzerland. I’ve skied a few glaciers over the past few years… Stubai, Hintertux, Molltaller, Blackcomb, just to name a few, but I’ve never experienced anything like Saas Fee. The sheer size of this glacier is spectacular. Blue ice walls that extend for hundreds of metres above sheer rock cliffs looks like something out of an Everest movie. It’s almost like a surreal lunar experience, being up on the glacier with hardly anyone around and an endless expanse of snow, rock shelves and ice.

(Sass Fee, Switzerland)

 (Check out the ice wall behind the t-bar station)

(Not a bad view when you're in the start gate)

(The clouds creeping up)

(Sami, Nick and Anton crammed into the electric car 'commuter' in Saas Fee)

We’re here training on a ski cross track with the Swiss and Swedish National Teams, in preparation for the first world cup of the season which is in just under two weeks away now.

Fingers crossed Europe gets some more snow before then, otherwise it could be an interesting race!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

World Cup Schedule

So I'm off to Europe in about 2 hours. I am looking forward to this season a lot!
This is what the World Cup schedule is looking like for 2011/11...

17 & 18 December - San Candido, Italy
7 January - St. Johann, Austria
11 January - Alpes D'Huez, France
15 January - Les Contamines, France
28 January - Winter X Games
3 February - Blue Mountain, Canada
25 February - Bischofswiesen / Goetschen, Germany
3 March - Branas, Sweden
10 & 11 March - Grindelwald, Switzerland

Most World Cups should be shown on Eurosport or Eurosport 2. I'll keep you updated on when they'll be broadcasted throughout the season!

Friday, November 25, 2011

VIS Athlete and Career Education Award

Last night I was awarded the 2011 William Angliss Athlete and Career Education Award at the VIS Awards Night. It was one of five major awards presented last night, including the Award of Excellence which went to Cadel Evans for his outstanding Tour de France win.

I was also awarded the 2011 AIS Tertiary Education Award, which was presented a few weeks ago. This is the second consecutive year I have won this award.

After having completed my university degree this week (Bachelor of Environments, major in Architecture), I am very happy to have been able to juggle both skiing and university. I am planning on starting a Masters of Architecture in the next year, and will continue to train for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games.

I leave for Europe in three days, and have a great feeling about this season. Hopefully I reach the high goals I have set for myself. Will keep you posted! A big thank you again to everyone who reads this blog and has continued to support me over the years.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The ultimate team challenge

As our final team training camp before we head off overseas for the 2011/12 World Cup season, the Australian Ski Cross Team spent three adventurous days at Mount Buller; my home mountain in Victoria. The camp kicked off in Melbourne with an ice hockey training session at the Ice House. Being padded up from head to toe in protective gear is always a bit of fun… if only we wore that kind of protection in ski cross! This was followed by a strength testing session at the VIS.

When we arrived at Buller on Friday evening, we were told to pack a backpack with enough food and clothes for three days. That was literally about it. We had no clue what was to lie ahead, except that it was undoubtedly going to be a tough two days. Little did we know how tough it would actually be!

When I was woken up the next morning, I checked my phone for the time. 3:13am. Hardly awake, the team met outside within 10 minutes. Between the four of us, we were given two small headlights, a carabineer each, and a rope to latch ourselves onto. The next two hours would involve us hiking to the summit attached together, working as a team. We had no idea of our final destination; when we reached a checkpoint, we were given another location to travel to. And to make things interesting, about an hour into the hike it started to pour with rain. After 4 hours of hard hiking and running with 10kg packs on our backs, we reached Howqua Gap at 7:30am where we were met by our mountain bikes. The next challenged involved us riding to the top of Mt. Stirling, a solid 7km climb up hill on a rough stone track. We were given a map of the bushland area with directions as to where to go from there. The pouring rain didn’t help our situation, and when we got lost about four hours into the ride, things weren’t looking great. We lost about two hours backtracking what we had already ridden. Finally, with Anton’s knowledge of the area, we made it back to Mirrimbah at about 4:30pm; tired, cold, wet and starving. We had been going for 13 hours by this stage, and all I could think about was a hot shower and an endless supply of food.

(Still in high spirits at the summit at 4am. The first checkpoint)

The next morning, we were woken up at 5am (almost a sleep in compared to Saturday!) and we drove to a reservoir past Whittfield, about 90km out of Mansfield. Our next challenge was to build a raft that was able to travel down ‘class 10’ (advanced) rapids. With the limited materials provided, as a team we worked together to come up with a reasonably functioning raft. I doubt how well it would have travelled down advanced rapids, but I think we did a great job considering the lack of directions we had.

(Our creation)


By 10:30am, we were on our road bikes. We rode 20km to Whitfield, and then continued on from Whitfield to Mansfield. The first 30km were basically all up hill. By the time we arrived in Mansfield, we had ridden a total of 85km. I thought surely the ride would stop there, but that was definitely not the case. After refuelling with anything I could get my hands on at the Mansfield bakery, including sandwiches, chocolate milk, cake, chocolate, protein bars, nuts and an energy gel, we jumped back on our bikes. Next stop was Mirrimbah, the base of Mt Buller. Once in Mirrimbah, we had totalled 115km on the bike. Before I could even consider the day to be over, next I knew we were riding Danish cargo bikes up Mt Buller, carrying each other up the hill. By this stage it was 5:30pm, and given the task ahead of it the day seemed as if it would never end! At about the half way point up Mount Buller (8km of steep incline), I hit the wall. I have never been so depleted of energy in my life. I could hardly walk or talk, my lungs were exploding; and I could hardly move. I rode 125km in total. Not a bad effort I thought, particularly given the exhausting day before. The boys jumped on their road bikes and finished off the last 8km of Mt Buller, almost collapsing at the top. The final challenge was one last hike to the summit. By the time we reached the top it was 8pm and we were all just about ready to roll back down the hill.

 (The team after 85km in Mansfield)

(Me looking a little nervous of the task ahead...)
(About 3km into the Buller hill climb)

(No time for stopping at the gnome house!)
 (Pushing Sami up the hill)

All in all, an extremely tough (both mentally and physically) training camp, but enjoyable none the less. The team worked extremely well together, and it was a good ‘test’ leading up to the long four-month season ahead.

(Sunset at the Summit: Matt, myself, Sami, Anton, Scotty and John)

Friday, November 18, 2011

VIS Ambassador Program

This week I joined the VIS Athlete Ambassadors Program. It is a government initiative run by the Victorian Institute of Sport, designed to inspire young children by sending elite athletes to schools all around Victoria.

This week, along with Olympic snowboarder Stephanie Hickey and archer Christian Williams, we visited Broadford Secondary College as well as Woodend Primary. I spoke about my experiences as an elite athlete, in particular what it was like to compete for Australia at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. We also talked about goal setting, nutrition, and the ins-and-outs of life as an elite athlete.

I had a great day chatting with the young kids, and look forward to doing another school visit sometime in the near future.

(VIS athletes Steph, Christian and myself at Broadford Secondary College)

(Local Broadford Paper)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Goodbye Austria, hello Summer!

Yesterday was our last day skiing on Hintertux Glacier for our October training camp. We seemed to time things pretty well, as the weather came in fast yesterday afternoon once we'd finished training, bringing a lot of new snow last night.

We made the most of the sunny afternoon in the valley by joining the Norwegian Ski Cross Team for a game of beach volleyball. Bizarre... to think of skiing in the morning and playing beach volleyball in the afternoon... We had a lot of fun, and ended the friendly match with pizza and beers in town.

(The new Aussie beach volleyball team in action...)

(Thanks Julie Jensen for the photos!)

All in all, the training camp has been a success. We've trained with numerous National Ski Cross Teams, including the Norwegians, Swedish and Czech teams. Tomorrow we will fly back to Australia where I will spend the next six weeks studying for my final University exams (my last semester then I get my degree... yay!), training in the gym and soaking up the rays before the long European winter ahead.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Hintertux Glacier

After a week of intense training at Stubai Glacier, we are now at Hintertux Glacier. Yesterday was our first day here, and my god it was busy! There seem to be thousands of racers here, ranging from World Cup National Teams, right down to tiny kids in race suits from the age of about five. They definitely start them early in Europe!

This morning, being a Saturday and perfect weather, was absolute mayhem at the gondola. Thinking we were pretty smart by getting to the base of the lift 30 minutes before it opened, little did we know we would pretty much be at the back of the line! Once the lift finally opens, it seems to be everyone for themselves... a true stampede of humans!

(The mad rush of Euro's in the morning)

The training here in Austria has been great so far. We've spent long days on snow (from 8:30am - 3:30pm), so as you can imagine, up at 3200m in the glacier it's pretty exhausting! Good thing we've done all the training back at home to allow us to ski at this kind of altitude and at a high intensity all day. We have six more days on snow, then we head back to Australia.

(Cute little Harry Potter-esque bridge in town)

(The beautiful flower boxes of Austria in autumn)

(Hintertux Glacier)