The 2018 Australian winter has been amazing and it was no exception for the 28th Kangaroo Hoppet at Falls Creek today. Over 1,000 skiers from 24 countries took part in what is the largest international ski event in the southern hemisphere. In the 42km premier event 2018 Winter Olympian Barbara Jezeršek from Sydney made it back to back Hoppet victories, while Swiss national and Mt Beauty local Valerio Leccardi won his 4th Hoppet in nine years.
The Kangaroo Hoppet is the Australian leg of the Worldloppet series of international ski marathons, which encompasses 20 events from 20 countries across the world. Steady snowfalls in recent weeks have seen the snow base at Falls Creek exceed two metres, while recent sunny days and cold nights made for well packed ski tracks and great racing conditions across the stunning Bogong High Plains.
The current Australian national team coach and husband of former Hoppet winner and three-time Winter Olympian Esther Bottomley, Leccardi won ahead of two-time Winter Olympians Phillip Bellingham rom Mount Beauty and Callum Watson from Sydney. Joining Jezeršek on the women’s podium were Aurélie Dabudyk from France and Cambria McDermott from the USA, both of whom who have been ski instructing and coaching at Falls Creek throughout the winter.
Jezeršek, Dabudyk and McDermott broke away from the rest of the women’s field early on, until Jezersek put her foot down up “The Paralyser” onto the Bogong High Plains and skied away solo. Dabudyk and McDermott also skied most of the rest of the race by themselves. Jezeršek won her first Hoppet in 2017 after becoming an Australian citizen in late 2016. At the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics Jezeršek and team-mate Jessica Yeaton achieved Australia’s best cross country skiing result, 12th in the Team Sprint event.
In the men’s event a pack of six formed early on, before Watson picked up the pace and dropped all but Leccardi and Bellingham. However the effort took its toll, and Watson was the next to lose contact at the front. Leccardi made a decisive move away from Bellingham as they returned from Sun Valley the second time, and finished strongly for his first Hoppet victory since 2015.
Valerio Leccardi, SUI
I am so happy to win my fourth title. It was a tough race but my skis were excellent and the tactics were good for me today. I’m very happy to have a new family and my fourth Hoppet win.
Phil Bellingham, AUS
It’s tough to be second again but I gave it all out on the course. The pace was good and Valerio made some very strong moves. Hopefully I’ll go better next year.
Barbara Jezersek, AUS
I am very happy for another victory. I felt good today and could use my strength on the course. The track was perfect and I am so happy for another win.
Results Kangaroo Hoppet 42km
1 Valerio Leccardi SUI
2 Phil Bellingham AUS
3 Callum Watson AUS
4 Ole Jacob Forsmo NOR
5 Mark Pollock AUS
1 Barbara Jezersek AUS
2 Aurélie Dabudyk FRA
3 Cambria McDermott USA
4 Iris Pessey FRA
5 Casey Wright AUS