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Kangaroo Hoppet: First Worldloppet of the New Season

Sun, Sep  10, 2006 - By Kangaroo Hoppet

The sixteenth Kangaroo Hoppet, Australia's international ski marathon, was held on August 26 at Falls Creek in north-east Victoria. Twenty-one year old Australian Ben Sim from Cooma made it back to back victories in the men's event, winning ahead of Pascal Grab from Switzerland and Cameron Morton from Mt Hotham. The women's event was won by Natascia Leonardi-Cortesi from Switzerland, ahead of Australians Katherine Calder from Canberra and Falls Creek local Belinda Phillips.

The Kangaroo Hoppet is the opening race of the 2006/2007 Worldloppet series of ski marathons, which are held in 14 countries around the world. Despite marginal snow around the country this winter, conditions at Falls Creek for the event were near perfect, with a handy dump of snow on Friday followed by a good freeze overnight and perfect weather during the day. The main event was held on a 14km loop on the upper Falls Creek trails adjacent to the alpine ski area. More than 800 competitors from 22 countries entered in the three race distances of 28km, 14km, and 6km. The main distance was reduced because of potential congestion on the course with all three events.

Presentations for the events were made by Victorian Deputy Premier John Thwaites, who competed in the 6km Joey Hoppet event, and Victorian Minister for Tourism John Pandazopoulus.

In the men's event a four member group formed after 5km, including Sim, Morton, Grab, and Brian McKeever from Canada. McKeever lost contact at the end of the first 14km lap, then Sim made his move from the other three on the climb up to the Falls Creek Summit at about the 18km mark. From there he didn't look back, and won the 28km race in a time of just of 1 hour and 13 minutes. Grab consolidated third place ahead of Morton in the latter stages of the race. Sim is a scholarship holder of the NSW Institute of Sport, and the next major event on his horizon is the 2007 World Championship in Japan next February.

Leonardi-Cortesi made a good start in the mass start event and was highly placed amongst the men right throughout the race. Second placed Calder tried to move up through the field, however never managed to get into contact with her Swiss competitor. The battle for third place amongst the women was a lot tighter, between former Hoppet winners Phillips and Camille Melvey from Bondi, and 2006 Winter Olympian Esther Bottomley from Mt Beauty. Melvey was reeled in by Bottomley and Phillips towards the end of the first lap, then Phillips went clear into third at the same place that Sim made his move. Melvey led Bottomley into the finish straight, but unfortunately fell as Bottomley drew level 20m before the line.

Leonardi-Cortesi has been a member of the Swiss Ski Team for many years, and has been training at Falls Creek for three weeks in her first trip to Australia. Her international merits include a bronze medal from the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and three victories in the Engadin Ski Marathon, the Swiss event in the Worldloppet series.

The 14km Australian Birkebeiner and 6km Joey Hoppet events were hotly contested by three different nations, with the podium places filled by two skiers from the USA, four by New Zealanders, and six Australians.

A webcast of all the action at the 2006 Hoppet is available for viewing on-line at Click on the Hoppet logo on the top left of the screen for vision from the 2006 and 2005 Hoppets.

2006 Kangaroo Hoppet 28km
Top 10 Men
Top 10 Women
1, Ben Sim, NSW
2, Pascal Grab, SWITZERLAND
3, Cameron Morton, VIC
4, Brian McKeever, CANADA
5, Ben Derrick, VIC
6, Anthony Evans, NSW
7, Chris Darlington, NSW
8, Geoffroy Pais, FRANCE
9, Gaber Lah, SLOVENIA
10, Mark Raymond, VIC
1, Natascia Leonardi-Cortesi, SWITZERLAND
2, Katherine Calder, ACT
3, Belinda Phillips, VIC
4, Esther Bottomley, VIC
5, Camille Melvey, NSW
6, Samantha Bondarenko, NEW ZEALAND
7, Carla Zijlstra, NETHERLANDS
8, Karen Messenger, CANADA
9, Jane Scheer, NSW
10, Robyn Rodd, VIC

2006 Australian Birkebeiner 14km

Top 5 Men
Top 5 Women
1, Neil van der Ploeg, VIC
2, Callum Watson, NSW
3, Bryce Turzian, USA
4, Alex Almoukov, NSW
5, Ewan Watson, NSW
1, Alexa Turzian, USA
2, Aimee Watson, NSW
3, Chloe McConville, VIC
4, Sally Cunningham, ACT
5, Felice Beitzel, VIC

2006 Joey Hoppet 6km

Top 5 Men
Top 5 Women
1, Mark Hogg, NEW ZEALAND
2, Matt Swinbourn, NEW ZEALAND
3, Aidan Jago, VIC
4, Alastair Blakeley, NEW ZEALAND
5, Robert Jones, VIC
1, d'Arcy Baxter, NSW
2, Anna Hogg, NEW ZEALAND
3, Samantha Williamson, NEW ZEALAND
4, Georgia Merritt, VIC
5, Aislinn Kildea, VIC


Kangaroo Hoppet Women's Podium 2006
L-R: Katherine Calder, Natascia Leonardi-Cortesi, Belinda Phillips

Kangaroo Hoppet Men's Podium 2006
L-R: Pascal Grab, Ben Sim, Cameron Morton