Solid results in sunny day of Cross Country
14 February 2014
CROSS COUNTRY” Australia’s Esther Bottomley and Aimee Watson have fought hard against the odds to finish 61st and 63rd in the Women’s 10km Classic Cross Country event in Sochi on Thursday.
Bottomley finished in 34 minutes 30.1 seconds, 6:12.3 minutes behind Polish gold medallist Justyna Kowalczyk with Watson a further 25.9 seconds back.
In what was Watson’s favoured event, the 24-year-old competed with a toe injury that kept her out of the Skiathlon earlier in the week and almost prevented her from making her Olympic debut in Sochi.
For three-time Olympian Bottomley the 10km Classic was an event she had rarely competed in over recent months and she was pleased to have finished above her 68th ranking.
“I was really happy as it was one of the toughest courses I have ever skied on.
“Big climbs, the snow was soft but my skis were alright and I was just really happy to finish it.
“We start 30 seconds apart and I passed a few skiers out there which always makes you feel good.”
Sochi was the first time Bottomley has competed in more than one event at a Winter Games and going into the Classic without high expectations helped her to secure a solid result.
“10km is a lot further than the 1.2 or 1.4 km that I am used to so I went in there without any pressure.
“It is a great way to do it and just go out there and have fun.”
With the temperature hitting a balmy 12 degrees, the conditions suited those in the stands rather than those out on course.
“It was a tough course,” said Watson.
“Getting grip was hard because it was a soft course. I don’t really compete in those conditions outside of going for a run at home.
“Considering everything that happened before the Olympics (with my injury) I am happy with how I went out there.”
Watson’s Olympic dream has been years in the making and wearing the green and gold for her country still hadn’t sunk in until she was out on the course.
“It was exciting to make my Olympic debut.
“I was skiing around and thought to myself, wow I’m skiing at the Olympics.”Watson, who is competing alongside her brother Callum in Sochi, and Bottomley were not the only Australians out at the Laura Cross Country and Biathlon Centre with plenty of cheers from the crowd each time they entered the stadium.
“It is pretty exciting to have my parents in the stand,” said Watson.
“To see two of us at the Olympics at the same time is brilliant. I guess they killed two birds with one stone.”
The Polish gold medallist was also battling against the odds after winning the event by 18.4 seconds with a fractured bone in her foot.
“It’s something big for me because I broke my foot two weeks ago,” said the 31-year-old after winning her fifth Olympic medal.
“I was one of the favourites and I really believed I could do it.”
Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla claimed the silver medal with Therese Johaug ensuring that the Norwegians have claimed a medal in each Cross Country event so far in Sochi.
With Watson’s injury still troubling her, a decision will be made on whether she pairs up with Bottomley in the Team Sprint Classic next Wednesday.