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PREVIEW: Esther leads Cross Country family of four

8 February 2014

CROSS COUNTRY: Australia’s Cross Country Skiing team are confident they can match it with many of the world’s best in one of Sochi’s most grueling sports. 

Three-time Winter Olympian Esther Bottomley, Olympic debutants brother and sister duo Callum and Aimee Watson and Phil Bellingham are finalising preparations for competition that kicks off on Saturday. 

Bottomley, who will become the first Australian female cross country athlete to compete at three Winter Games, has spent the past couple of days testing out the track and could not hide her excitement. 

“The snow is really good at the moment it is fast which is great,” the 31-year-old Victorian said. 

“The sprint track for the women is fabulous, for the men it is really tough but we miss the big hill which is great.” 

“The rest of the tracks are tough. It is going to be really hard out there but we train for it so hopefully it will go well.” 

The history-making Aussie believes the team is one of the nation’s strongest to date and knows they will be well prepared prior to competition. 

“If they need advice I can give it to them but we’ve all been at World Champs and World Cups so they’re pretty comfortable I think.” 

Fellow Mt Beauty athlete Phil Bellingham is also ready and raring to go. 

“It is super exciting, the vibe is really good in Sochi and I’m stoked to be here,” said the 22-year-old. 

“The mood in the camp is really good. Everyone is super excited to be here and it is great to be around everyone as we are all really positive.” 

Bellingham knows that it might not be all smiles when he gets out on the course. 

“It is a super challenging course. We were here last year for a test event and skied here yesterday and it is one of the toughest courses on the World Cup circuit. 

“It is much longer and has bigger hills than any of the other courses so it is nothing like we’ve ever done before so.” 

While Australia is not recognised as a strong Cross Country nation Bellingham is still hoping for success on the Sochi slopes. 

“I’m qualified for all five events but I’ll skip the first event (30km) and concentrate on the sprint which is my best event.”

“I am not really a medal chance but I am hoping I can finish around the top 30 and potentially qualify for the finals.” 

Callum Watson and Bellingham kick off competition on Sunday in the 15km Skiathlon while Bottomley’s first event is the Individual Sprint Freestyle on Tuesday. 

Aimee Watson was set to compete in the Skiathlon on Saturday but pulled out with a broken toe. Her injury has continued to progress in recent days and she will be looking to compete in her next event, the 10km Classic, on Thursday.

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