Perfect snow conditions and blue skies set the backdrop for the of 27th Kangaroo Hoppet at Falls Creek on Saturday 26th August. Australian Barbara Jezersek and Mile Havlick from the USA claimed wins in the 42km event. Over 1,000 skiers from 22 countries took part in what is the largest international ski event in the southern hemisphere.
Heavy snowfalls in recent weeks followed by a number of sunny days and cold nights made for well packed snow and fast racing conditions across the stunning Bogong High Plains.
First win for Jezersek
The women’s field was spread out, with Jezersek skiing a predominantly solo race for first well clear from Mary Rose from the USA and Iris Pessey from France. For Jezersek, this was her third time on the Kangaroo Hoppet podium but her first in the top place and first since becoming an Australian citizen in 2016.
The dual Winter Olympian for Slovenia in 2010 and 2014, Jezersek is now one of Australia’s leading cross-country contenders for Pyeongchang 2018. Jezersek made a clean sweep of the Australian Championships at Falls Creek last weekend, and she and Bellingham are now the leaders in the FIS Australian – New Zealand Continental Cup series.
Exciting final in the men's competition
The men’s 42km event was the closest in history, with just half a boot between Havlick and runner-up Phillip Bellingham from Mt Beauty, and 4 seconds separating the top four. Third place went to three-time Hoppet winner Valerio Leccardi from Switzerland, ahead of Callum Watson from Jindabyne.
Bellingham lead the pack of four men over the final hill into the stadium, however Havlick was on his heels and pulled out to sprint for the line with just 30m to go. Both skiers lunged over the line and Havlick’s outstretched foot delivered him the win.
Havlick has been in Australia since the start of winter, coaching with the local Birkebeiner Nordic Ski Club at and also training regularly with national team athletes at the Falls Creek National Training Centre. Racing at the Australian Championships at Falls Creek last weekend Havlick had to settle for minor podium places behind Bellingham and Watson, today he turned the tables to take his first Worldloppet victory.