A Wānaka girl has placed third in one of Australasia’s biggest long-distance, cross-country ski races. Twelve-year-old Olivia Helmore raced in the Kangaroo Hoppet 2019 in Falls Creek, Victoria, Australia, on August 24; she came in third in the Women’s Under 14 category during her seven kilometre Joey Hoppet race.
Thirteen people from town, Arrrowtown and Queenstown, all members of the Waiorau Nordic Sports Club, participated in the race’s 29th edition. “The ski club were generous to provide some funding towards the children competing in this event, which is raised from a club fundraising event at Warbirds Over Wānaka every second year,” said fellow racer Susan Helmore of Wānaka. Olivia Helmore, Charlie Helmore, 10, Gaia Fercot, 10, and Ewenn Fercot, 8, all participated in the event for the first time; they have been in weekly lessons at Snow Farm and training for this race all winter. “It was really awesome,” said Charlie Helmore. “It was the best ski race I’ve ever done.”
“Marie Fercot skied the seven kilometre Joey Hoppet whilst towing her youngest daughter in a ski trailer, an impressive feat, said Susan Helmore. “I skied my first ever cross-country race after just learning to skate ski this year and came third in my age category.”
She added, “Phillipa Dobson-Brown added the hoppet to her list of 21km ski races. James Helmore skied his first ever 42km ski race. Eric Billoud came third in his age category, and Benoit Fercot skied 42kms in an impressive time of 02:32:00.”
Ernie Maluschnig had to pull out after the first lap of his 42km race due to injury.
Susan Helmore told the Wānaka Sun that several people were surprised that there is snow in Australia. “They were even more surprised when we told them we are going to do a ski race there,” she said.
The group stayed in the small town of Mount Beauty. “It wasn’t until you drive up the long and windy road that you come across snow in amongst the gum trees, and that is where the ski trails are,” said Susan Helmore. “In summer, the cross-country ski trails are actually a road that connects two valleys over a hydroelectric dam.”
The Kangaroo Hoppet is part of the Worldloppet, which is an international federation for cross-country skiing and includes 20 races around the world, including the Merino Muster, which was recently hosted at Snow Farm NZ on August 31.