SNOW FARM, New Zealand – Olympic medallists and world champions battled each other with some adverse weather conditions on day two of the cross country ski racing at the 100% Pure New Zealand Winter Games on August 14, 2011. Despite the whiteout and poor visibility racing was fast and furious on the 1605m course for men, 1025m for women and 1km for IPC athletes, attracting cross country skiers from USA, Canada, Japan, Korea, Russia, Peru, Poland, Australia and New Zealand.
The first round format was time trials as athletes raced against the clock for a position in the next round. Semis and finals pit athletes head to head to determine the final placings, racing with up to four athletes was thrilling especially as they skied down the finish chute.
USA dominated the podium with a first, second and third. 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.
New Zealand’s Andrew Pohl was the only New Zealand male to proceed to the semi finals, finishing in sixteenth position. In the women’s division Sarah Murphy achieved sixth place.
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.
There were impressive performances from the adaptive athletes in the sprint discipline. In the women’s IPC field Japan’s Shoko Ota achieved her second first of the 100% Pure New Zealand Winter Games, adding to her win yesterday in the classic racing. Yoshihiro Nitta (JPN) also made it a double, winning the men’s IPC division. Vo-Ra-Mi (KOR) was the sole sit-skier participating and takes gold.