Snow Farm NZ hosted the 25th annual Merino Muster last Saturday, an international cross-country skiing event which forms part of the family of Worldloppet races.
Around 286 athletes were brought together from New Zealand and around the globe to compete in three races—the 7km Straggle Muster, 21km Snow Rake and 42km Merino Muster.
Japanese national team member Tomoki Sato triumphed in the Merino Muster with a time of 01:47:16, followed by head cross-country ski coach at Swix China and Norwegian athlete Kristian Bjune Sveen who finished second with a time of 01:48:33.
“This race is the highlight in our training plan, and the last few days have been easy to be able to race fast,” said Sveen. “For us this is a great chance to show our development and compare ourselves with some great, top-level athletes.”
American gold-winning olympic athlete Jessie Diggins was the first female to complete the 42km race, achieving sixth place with a time of 01:50:23.
Diggins said, “[I was] just trying to hang onto the boys and ski like them. It was fun and so cool to see so many skiers from around the world.”
Chinese national team member Abudelehan Yeernaer gained victory in the Snow Rake with a time of 00:49:47, edging out Wanaka’s own Campbell Wright who finished second with a time of 00:50:23. American athlete Julia Kern was the first female athlete to complete the 21km race, finishing third with a time of 00:52:07.
Kiwi male athlete Olivier Despatis brought home the gold in the Straggle Muster with a time of 00:17:06 and in second place was Thailand’s Mark Chanloung, who completed the race in 00:17:06.
The first female to complete the Straggle Muster was Thailand’s Karen Chanloung, with a time of 00:20:40.
From Santa Claus to Thing One and Thing Two on tandem skis, there were also several competitors in fancy dress.
Jess Shipard, wearing a ‘granny-on-skis-style’ fancy dress costume, said, “This is my 75th Merino Muster… just kidding. Lots of kiddos out today; it’s nice to see the community traditions continuing on. I was really lucky I didn’t crack my hip, had a couple of falls… might have a broken coccyx over here. No, it was very fun and very well-organised.”