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Events & Results
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Katerina Paul: “Ski Classics Racing Truly Breaks You Down And Brings The Best Out Of You”

Katerina Paul, the sole Australian in Ski Classics representing Swiss Pro Team, Team BSV IBEX, tells ProXCskiing about her path to long-distance skiing and the differences and similarities between the Australian cross-country ski scene to Europe. 

Photo: Magnus Östh/Ski Classics

Katerina Paul, Team BSV Ibex, got 1st and 2nd place during weekend 1 of Australia's Championships.

What is your background as a skier, and how did you become a long-distance skier?

”Even before I could walk, I was carried around in the backpack and “chariot” by my parents, who both competed at the Olympics in biathlon. My life has been all about skiing since before I could remember. I used to be all about sprinting, but in recent years I have wanted to develop my long-distance skiing.”

”I met my boyfriend, IBEX skier Lauro Brändli, in Davos, Switzerland, almost four years now, who introduced me to BSV IBEX coach Markus Walser, and he introduced me to the world of long-distance skiing. Something which I had heard of but had never considered something I could do.”

What made you switch to long-distance, and how do you feel the competition scene differs from traditional skiing? 

”The switch to long-distance has been a challenge, particularly with improving my double-poling and building up the strength to be able to double-pole as far as 90km. The thrill of spending absolutely every bit of energy you have in a Ski Classics race is the fulfillment I want from xc skiing (like traditional wasn’t hard enough). Ski Classics racing truly breaks you down and brings the best out of you.”

”The competition scene in long-distance is different, but in the best way the crowds are amazing; I really enjoy the atmosphere in Ski Classics. Some highlights obviously include the Vasaloppet and Birkebeiner!”

”I find Ski Classic races challenging; however, I get a great deal of joy out of them too, so it is an easy decision to stick with long-distance this season.”

What are your biggest takeaways from international racing? 

”The women are improving so much, and it’s a high-quality field. I think my biggest takeaway is if I want to continue to improve my results in long-distance racing, I need to continue to improve my double pole strength and endurance training. Some of the best women are racing faster than some of the men’s field. It’s impressive to see.” 

Cross-Country Skiing in Australia – Bonus Time On Snow 

Australian seasons are the opposite of those in the northern hemisphere, and while Europeans are in full summer training mode, winter in Australia has just started. Paul spends part of her year in Australia, getting the best out of both worlds: 

“Doesn’t sound too bad, right? Half the year in Davos, Switzerland, and the other half in my home in the southern part of Australia.”

”On the Australian National team there are many athletes; however, we are spread out over two states. Those based around Sydney train and ski up in the Perisher Valley and those based around Melbourne usually train and race up at Falls Creek Resort. There is a World Loppet, the 42km Kangaroo Hoppet at Falls Creek. I haven’t been home for a proper winter season since Covid-19, but before Covid-19, during the Australian winter (June, July & August), the Australian Team bases out of Falls Creek and trains together a few days a week. We have training camps with the Australian team throughout the year like any XC Ski Team.”

“This season is my first winter home since deciding to focus on Ski Classics full time. It will be a bit different with training alongside the Australian Team as BSV IBEX focuses on long-distance training and more double pole than what the Australian team does on a normal week. I will just fit in training with the Australian team when it suits my training program. However, where I live in Australia, I don’t have many training partners, so I look forward to the sessions with others when I have the opportunity.”

Winter has just started there. How the training system differs from the one in Europe? 

”The training system in Australia is very much the same as in Europe, except with the bonus of more on-snow time. When you are a junior in Australia, there is a bit more focus on the FIS races in July and August as it is important for National team selection and selection for World Juniors/U23s.”

”The seniors on the Australian team, while we do have some extra races to do, the focus on volume during the “Summer” is like any other European.” 

What are the biggest differences/similarities in racing and training culture? 

”There is not the same culture of cross-country skiing with the general population in Australia as there is in Europe or Scandinavia. However, the community that we do have in cross-country skiing in Australia, while small, it is a strong community filled with as much passion as those in Europe. A big difference in Australia is cross-country skiing is a small sport, and there is very limited funding and sponsorships, so all athletes must have other jobs to fund their pursuits while they are training and racing full time.”

”Covid-19 also really inhibited the ability for people to be involved in cross-country skiing over the past two years with our government’s tight restrictions, so it will take a while for the community to build back up and get more juniors back into the sport.”

”I think a big difference within the elite skiers and supporters in Australia, is that some may think the only way to be a great skier is just to follow the FIS traditional skiing pathway (Swiss Cup, Europa cup, World Cup, etc.). There is a whole world of elite long-distance racing out there at an extremely high level, and I really hope that up-and-coming skiers see that it is a pathway they can do.”

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