Local & International elite skiers at the Kangaroo Hoppet 2018
With three days to go before the 2018 Kangaroo Hoppet all preparations are on track for another successful event in southern hemisphere. Almost 1,000 skiers from 25 nations (South Africa just entered yesterday) will take part in the 28th staging of the Hoppet at Falls Creek. This year will see the first participants from Mongolia and Lichtenstein compete against other well-represented European, Asian and North American citizens.
Southern Hemisphere Triple
Three skiers from Europe started their trip to Australia several weeks ago via Argentina, where they took part in the Ushuaia Loppet. And after the Hoppet they will be travelling on to New Zealand to take part in the Merino Muster. For Josef Kral and Ivana Kralova this will be the third time they have completed the three Southern Hemisphere Worldloppet races in the same year. The only other skier to have achieved the Southern Hemisphere triple three times is 34 times Worldloppet Master Hannes Larsson. Josef and Ivana are 14 times Worldloppet Masters. Making the trip for the first time is Viacheslav Alekseev from Russia. This is amazing commitment and highlights the connected nature of Worldloppet skiing.
Record snow at Falls Creek
The snow at Falls Creek is exceptional with snow depth being the 7th highest on record. The trails at Falls Creek have been opened since mid-June and many participants have been enjoying the perfect grooming for the last few months.
Race Director, Ben Derrick, anticipates another perfect event. “The weather forecast looks great for the weekend and all preparations are in order for the weekend. Our course preparation, event administration and safety plan have all been kept on track by our Organising Committee. We are anticipating another sunny day with firm and fast trails for all the field but our main goal is to provide a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone and I’m sure there will be lots of fond memories after 2018”.
Local and international top skiers joining the Hoppet 2018
The form guide for both the men’s and the women’s elite field indicates that we are in store for an intriguing event in the 42km race. After an eight year drought since Ben Sim took his fourth title in 2009, is it time for an Australian to reclaim top spot on the Hoppet podium in the men’s race? Dual Winter Olympians, Phil Bellingham and Callum Watson, are back this year looking for top spot on the podium and their first Hoppet wins. Phil, after being denied the top spot by a half boot at last year’s event, and Callum with fourth last year and second in 2015 look like the skiers to beat, as long as Australian National Team coach Valerio Leccardi does not spoil the party. The Swiss Winter Olympian, with three Hoppet wins to his credit and third place last year is very keen to add a fourth title to his cv, and join Ben Sim and Ben Derrick on the select list of folk with four Hoppet wins to their credit.
For the women, triple Winter Olympian Barbara Jezersek (twice representing Slovenia and most recently skiing for Australia) is the top ranked woman in Australia and after first place at last year’s Hoppet will be keen to make it a back-to-back Hoppet double. Fellow Australian and dual Winter Olympian Aimee Watson was third at the 2017 Hoppet and cannot be overlooked for a podium spot.
Barbara’s main challenge to achieving back to back Hoppets is French skier Aurelie Dabudyk. Aurelie is a three times FIS Worldloppet Cup Champion and has been based at Falls Creek since early July and has plenty of skiing under her feet as well as a good knowledge of local course conditions. Aurelie looks to be in form after taking first place in last week’s Australia New Zealand Continental Cup distance event here at Falls Creek. Also in the mix will be Cambria McDermott from the USA, who is spending the winter in Mt Beauty as Birkebeiner Nordic Ski Club’s coach in residence and took first place in the Hotham Pub to Pub race earlier this month and last year’s runner up Iris Pessey (FRA) who has also based herself here at Falls Creek for the winter.
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