New Zealand Winter Games report by Sally Jones

Saturday August 13, 2011

Perfect conditions for an exciting first day of cross country ski racing
SNOW FARM, New Zealand (August 13, 2011) – Clear blue skies welcomed athletes to the Snow Farm today for fast paced action on the first of three days of cross country ski racing at the 100% Pure New Zealand Winter Games.

The men’s 15km classic race featured a strong field of Canadian and American skiers. The racing was tight with an exciting sprint to the finish, just 1.2 seconds split the first three athletes. Kris Freeman (USA) was first across the line in 38:30.8, just 8 tenths of a second behind was teammate Andrew Newell, followed closely by Canadian Alex Harvey.
Freeman was delighted with his victory, “It was a good technical race as the field hung together in a pack until the final 2km mark. It is great to have a strong North American contingent here in New Zealand enjoying the hard tracks and excellent conditions,” said Freeman.

In the women’s 10km classic race the world’s number one and Olympic gold medallist Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) lead throughout the race crossing the finish line first in 30:35. Sumiko Ishigaki (JPN) finished second in 34:34, third place went to Seul-Gi Nam (JPN). Kowalczyk said today’s conditions were perfect. “This is the first time I have been to New Zealand, the snow and course conditions are very good. I am pleased with my race today,” she said.

There were strong performances in the adaptive competition, racing on the same course as the able-bodied athletes. Canada’s Chris Klebl was the sole competitor in the men’s sit ski category (10km) finishing in 19:12.8 with Colette Bourgonje (CAN) winning the women’s sit ski division (10km) in 20:23.5. In the standing section Japan’s Yoshihiro Nita took the men’s standing (15km) title in 44:07.6 and Ota Shoko the women’s title (10km) in 37:49.10.

Visually impaired Brian McKeever (CAN) who races in both able bodied and adaptive fields featured in the men’s able bodied division today alongside his guide (when racing IPC) Erik Carleton. McKeever put in a great performance on the 15km course and out-skied Carleton coming in two places ahead on the results table in eighth position

Olympic medallists and world champions battled against each other and adverse weather conditions on day two of the cross country ski racing at the 100% Pure New Zealand Winter Games.

Despite the whiteout and poor visibility racing was fast and furious. The event attracted cross country skiers from USA, Russia, Canada, Japan, Peru, Korea, Poland, Australia and New Zealand.

The women’s final was hotly competed, with the world’s current number one cross country skier Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) going head to head with twelve times FIS Ski Champion Natalia Korosteleva (RUS). The winner was determined by a photo finish. Kowalczyk pipped Korosteleva across the line with just eight hundredths of a second in it. Third place went to Maria Davydenkova (RUS).

Kowalczyk enjoyed the closely fought race even with the tougher conditions. “The weather was very different to yesterday and training this week. It was great to have a great race with Natalia, it was so very close,” she said.

Topping the men’s field Andrew Newell out-sprint team mate Kris Freeman in the final 200 metres. Simeon Hamilton finished third. Fresh from his win yesterday in the classic cross country racing Newell was pleased with the victory. “They were tough conditions today but made the race challenging. Cross country sprint is very similar to skier cross, only we have the uphills too, the tight finishes make it a real exciting,” said Newell.