Australian nationals, or “nationals” as they shall be referred to from this point forth, began today on an initially forboding morning characterised by cold temperatures and long warm ups. Long enough, in fact, to allow for your eternally absent-minded man-on-the-ground, moi, to forget his victorian skinsuit but still have time to make the hour-long round trip home and back to retrieve it.
Meanwhile, Keiran Garriga is caught with his pants down…
Thankfully, I got back in time for the time trial, a race in which I am not traditionally known for placing well in. This year was no different (see results). Mark Gainsmith, however, snatched his first nationals time trial gold medal with a scorching time, and venue record of 17.560. Young Gethyn Sharp-Bucknall, aslo from victoria, won the junior international mens division with a time which would have shamed most of the senior men. Other honorable mentions go to Janelle Cornish of queensland who won the junior girls division by more than a second and Craig Hawke of victoria for winning his division despite having to re-run his time trial due to technical difficulties
The 5k/3k races for all the divisions were the order of the afternoon with exciting racing coming from all quaters. Fast pack sprints at the finish line made matters difficult for the place judges, but the officials handled the job well. Victorian Brooke Lochland won the junior international ladies division with an awe-inspiring sprint which went for a good half-a-lap and left runners up Anna Tilley and Sandra Lorincz from western Australia hurting in her wake. Other memorable performances came in from Robbie Cook from south Australia who snatched victory in the final centimeters of his race from queenslander Corey Stevens, and the victorian trio of Sam Evans, Daniel Greig and James Nicholson who very nearly grabbed a victorian 1-2-3 at the last minute but were foiled by newcomer from Cairns, Alister Dugdale.
The senior ladies field picks up the pace in the 5000m. Alison Weppler can be seen the Bont skinsuit making a comeback to the sport.
D-rock “pins” Burton leads the senior mens 5k – a deceptively fast 8:24.19
In the masters divisions, Andrew Teiken from queensland asserted his dominance while Stephen Cook battled it out with Peter Garriga and was victorious over the victorian.
Shaun Thompson came down for Nationals and it was good to see him. Here he can be seen chatting with friend and fellow Junior World Champion, Corey Price.
The second day of road nationals kicked off with 500m heats in most of the divisions. They were, in general, very exciting affairs with some hotly-contested racing just for a place in the semis or finals. The junior and senior international mens provided some spectacular racing, as they had the largest numbers, they had the most to eliminate. Although I was one of the first to go, I’m not bitter (despite being in a heat with, count them, FIVE victorians)
Jon Evans, victorian speed VP dutifully mans the fundraising stall where cool drinks and lollies could be purchased. As the day wore on, temperatures soared and shade quickly became one of the most soughtafter commodities. The rise in temperature also wreaked havoc on everyone’s wheels, because the dandenong netball courts have a reputation of turning inline skating wheels into pizza-cutters when the temperature is high.
Juan Carlos Valencia (middle) spent the day massaging skaters for the small fee of $20. Here he can be seen taking a break and chilling out with the ever-vigilant Pauline Robertson and Corey Price.
Quick starts were the order of the day, as your position into the first corner of a 500m is so vital. However, that is not to say that one can rely entirely on one’s start. Otherwise I would have done much better.
The team tents became quite crowded as everyone tried to stay out of the scorching heat. There were many close finishes in the 500m final, notably the masters which began with Craig Hawke hammering it straight out of the blocks, however by the finish line he was singing a different tune (probably the “I hate lactic acid” song) and all four finalists bunched up at the finish line with Geoff Rushen in the lead, Andrew Tieken in second and Tim Stannage in third.
Many of the finishes were very close. Here we can see queenslander Corey Stevens and south Australian Robbie Cook at full extension at the finish line. Some memorable performances today came from Daniel Greig, Sam Evans and James Nicholson who brought home a 1-2-3 for victoria. The senior international men did likewise with Michael Byrne, Mark Kinzett and Mark Gainsmith taking out another 1-2-3 for victoria. Later in the day, the junior boys brough home a 1-2 in the relay with victoria-1 leaving the rest of the field for dead and victoria-2 gaining their second placing after a western Australian tag was judged illegal. Before we had time to catch our breath, the masters men relay were going at it and the long-standing rivalry between victoria and queensland once again made itself known. This year, however, it was victoria with the gold, queensland with the silver (and victoria 2 with the bronze).
The victorian senior men putting together some shade for themselves. To finish the day, the international grades had to put together a points race. For a gruelling 10 kilometers, there was no shade for the skaters while they battled out points sprints every lap for the measley one point which is awarded only to the winner. In all divisions except the junior international men, the field ended up quite spread out as everyone had to push the pace to stay in the race.
Day three of nationals began at an ungodly hour of the morning. Many of the skaters woke up and began driving to the venue before the sun had even come up. The day began with the 1000m heats in all divisions. Slowly (well, not from the skaters point of view) but surely we worked through all the 1000m heats and semis and finally, to the finals. The finals, although not as fast (because nobody needs a fast time to get through to the next round), were no less exciting than the semis. In fact, in most cases they were more exciting…
Brooke Lochland showing the rest of the Junior International ladies that she means business in her 1000m. Brooke went on to win comfortably (and we were all very surprised, really). In other divisions Daniel Greig won his 1000m final, Angie Thomas won hers, Corey Stevens his, Janelle Cornish hers, and Michael Byrne his in the junior boys, senior international ladies, junior international mens, junior girls and senior international mens respectively.
After noon, temperatures soared to a whopping 33 degrees in the shade prompting many people to slip slop slap (or spray as the case may be). Here Mark Gainsmith demonstrates how not to use spray-on sunscreen. As the temperatures soared, the wheels wore causing many to slip and slide going around the corners, especially at corner 2, a corner which has been dubbed by some commentators as “death corner”.
Later in the afternoon, 20k elimination races were run in the international divisions. 20k is a long way for some, but these junior boys can be seen doing it tough, with many of them making it to the end of the distance AND have a sprint left in them. Brooke once again asserted her dominance by winning her 20k in front of Sandra Lorincz and Anna Tilley, both from western Australia. In the senior international men Michael Byrne overcame a strong challenge from New Zealander Shane Dobbin to take gold in his 20k elimination.
During the breaks in racing, many of the younger victorians sought shelter from the sun under the victorian tent. Here they can be seen relaxing to a game of cards.
Brooke and Angie both seem to have taken up the sport of “synchronised warming up”. The road program finished off with the 5k relays. The senior international ladies relay was won by queensland over two western Australian teams. The rest of the relays were won by victorian teams with some very strong performances being put in by victorian “B” teams, although the team which I happened to be on only managed a close 4th.
Gethyn Sharp-Bucknall enjoying his ice cream just a little too much methinks (“…hey, you never know, you might like it…”). Gethyn is always a constant source of inspiration for the victorian team, not only for his skating, but for the constant amusement he provides for his fellow skaters. To see what I’m talking about, click here
With the road program over, with Victoria victorious, everyone retired from the infamous Dandenong netball courts for a well-earned rest day.
Track nationals began on a lesiurely thursday afternoon with the 300m time trials in all divisions. While watching the warmups and time trials, one cannot but remark that pink seems to be the new black. Pink labeda icons seemed to be the order of the day with most people coming to the conclusion that they were a good wheel for this track. The time trials went by with great speed with some very fast times being posted.
James Nicholson flies around the track at warp 8.57. Earlier, in the junior boys 300m time trial, Daniel Greig, Paul Garriga and James Evans once again stole a victorian 1-2-3. Brooke Lochland won her time trial by almost two seconds with her older sister, Lauren Lochland coming in second mere hundredths of a second in front of western Australia’s Anna Tilley. As the speeds increased, grip became harder and harder to come by. The intermediate men’s division saw a few brown-underpants-moments when the wheels squeaked against the floorboards, as did the advanced men. The seniors saw indoor hard-hitter Andy Finster go down hard after his wheels decided that their affinity for the air had overcome their affinity for the ground. Joshua Lose, after recording a lightning quick first lap, also found himself overbalancing and falling resulting in the second slowest time of the day to be recorded.
Mick and Gaino prepare for the senior men’s 5000m relay. The victorian team was seen as a great threat as they were all fitted out with matching pink wheels and blue skinsuits (even if Gaino had to wear Gethyn’s). After our junior boys and junior girls comprehensively opened a can of whoop-ass on the other states, our senior men were set to do the same.
After their comprehensive victory in the junior girls relay, Brooke, Georgia and Claire felt compelled to pay tribute to Lleyton Hewitt. By the end of their 3000m relay, they had lapped the other team twice.
The senior mens relay was an exciting and hair-raising affair. Right from the start the pace was up there at warp 9 (as Mick would say it) and initially all three teams were neck-and-neck. Eventually, victoria made a bit of a break and shaked off queensland. They succeeded intermittently to shake off western Australia but the very best from the west wouldn’t let the vics get the best of them and always managed to get themselves back into the challenge. About halfway through the race, there was some confusion over a tag and some interference and before anyone could say “what the…?”, the victorians were disqualified. They, however, continued to skate in the hope that there had been a mistake, but three corners, two squeaks and a hole in a borrowed skinsuit later, Mark Gainsmith was on the ground and victoria was down and out for the count giving western Australia an easy victory over queensland.
Mark Gainsmith goes to tag Michael Byrne, Thomas Baird goes to tag Joshua Lose… all at maximum warp.
Day two of track nationals began at an even more ungodly hour of the morning than on the third day of road. Doors opened at 6:30am! Which meant that most of us had to get up to have breakfast at a time which many of us would have considered “last night”.
The reason – the today show. Michael Byrne made the insightful remark that if we had offered free breakfast and a massage (but no opportunity to appear on TV), we would have only gotten half the people that we did. In fact, many people who hadn’t raced track, or all week for that matter, came out of the woodwork for their fifteen minutes of fame.
Sporadically throughout the morning, our program was interrupted by “crossing over live” and we all had to do all sorts of silly things, like pretend to skate in a race while the weather guy read the weather… go figure. At the end of the day though, this was a great shot in the arm for a sport which has traditionally had alot of trouble generating any media interest.
To ensure that we did the prescribed distances – and not a millimeter more, we were sure to measure up the track. We also scissor-mopped the track a number of times throughout the day to try and maintain maximum grip on what had so far proven to be quite a slippery floor.
The uncertainty with the program, particularly early in the morning while the TV crew were making us jump through hoops, led to there being alot of latent energy in the crowd. The start of many races were delayed precipitating ad-hoc wrestling matches to spontaneously begin trackside. Here we see Brooke Lochland fighting above her… er… weight and getting a grip on Anna Tilley.
Corey Stevens (QLD) leads the pack in the advanced men 1000m final..We did finally get under way with 1000m heats (and for some, semis as well). Most of the results were as expected, although that didn’t make the racing any less exciting. Despite the constitution of the finals being decided on places rather than times, the pace was still generally of a fast nature (guess they don’t call it speed skating for nothing).
The 3000m race threw in a few surprises. A certain victorian skater who has a totally unjustified reputation for being a bad driver, drove the pace hard right from the start with an early break which began about 10cm from the starting line. Alas, after gaining a substatial lead he was caught, passed and spat out the back to deal with the lactic acid monster on his own. Meanwhile, Gethyn Sharp-Bucknall overcame both Corey Stevens and Robbie Cook to take the title in the advanced men after playing third (and occasionally second) fiddle to those two skaters. Liam Garriga also put in a gutsy performance to come out on top at the end of his 3000m race in the juvenile boys division.
After all that jazz, the racing resumed with two-person 16-lap relays which turned out to be as much a test of speed as of maneuverability. The heats passed by with very little drama, however the finals were another story entirely. There was one disqualification and a relegation in the senior men’s final which left one of the victorian teams on the sidelines wondering what went wrong. The end result – Mick and Gaino 1st, Gethyn and Damo 2nd, Brad and Tom 3rd. The masters also put on a brave performance with victoria taking 2nd and 3rd. Also noteworthy was victorian masters lady Renee Starr who overcame the hitherto invincible Miriam Houbolt from queensland to grab the gold medal in that division.
Mark “Gaino” Gainsmith at full extension following a push-tag to Michael “Mick” Byrne.
The third day of track nationals was a comparative sleep in with the start being at 9am.
The lure of exciting nationals racing was just too much to keep Tessa Byrne away from spectating. The day started off with the 500m heats for all divisions. Due to the marathon starting tomorrow, many people didn’t front up for the heats which meant that the first round of 500m were slightly easier than we expected. So much so that even I managed to get through my heat into a semi final. Once in the semi, I executed my race plan which was to go hard from the start and hope that the lactic acid monster didn’t catch me before I reached the finish line. Unfortunately, the lactic acid monster had been in training and was skating much faster than I was used to. After skating 300m at break neck (no, really!) speed in the lead of my 500m semi final, I locked harder than I have ever locked before… and was subsequently passed and was unable to make it to the final.
During one of the breaks in skating we heard an almighty thud. Everyone looked up to find Danny Finster’s feet pointed in the air behind a chair with two broken back legs. Hmm… I guess there’s nothing quite like a bit of comic relief to lighten up the mood at nationals.
The 500m final of the senior men was an exciting affair with three (count them) breaks off the line before they finally got a clean start. Josh Lose made good of the start and broke away in a fashion that would not be caught before the end of the race. However, Andy Finster, who was fourth into the first corner, found his feet and charged up the field to take second place. The advanced mens 500m was made interesting by a fall which brought down both Corey Stevens and Robbie Cook leaving the race open to Nihal Kehoe to come through for second and Gethyn Sharp-Bucknall to take the title.
The open races followed in the latter part of the progam with big fields all coming out to do the long distance. The combination of different divisions left everyone guessing as to who would try and do what which made for some exciting racing. The open mens division was especially gruelling as it was 10,000m – 100 laps, twice the distance of the next longest race. The distance certainly took its toll on the skaters with only 8 finishing from a starting field of 21. The western Australians – Lose, Baird and Jenkins put in a great team effort to secure a breakaway and a subsequent 1-2-3 for western Australia.
The final events were the mixed relays. Queensland dominated the masters relay with Andrew Tieken and Miriam Houbolt easily taking the win from the victorians. Elsewhere, however, was a different story with Paul McAlister and Brooke Lochland taking out the senior mixed relay. With only a few laps to go, the pace began to slow with the effects of six days’ racing and lactic acid began to accumulate. Paul gave Brooke the last tag leaving her in second place behind western Australian Ryanne Shaw (no slouch herself). However, little Brooke still had some dance moves left in her and she danced through the inside of Ryanne with one and a half to go to bring home the bacon in the last race of Australian track nationals.
Unofficially, I do believe that victoria was once again comprehensively victorious over their interstate bretheren.
For the last day of nationals, we had the event that everyone had been waiting for. Everyone has their own reason for looking forward to this event. For some, it is for the opportunity at another medal, for others (such as myself) its the day of the nationals dinner.
Due to time shortages, all divisions started together. This meant that the packs that we were skating in were comparatively large. Large packs are alot of fun to skate in because one can “sit in” the slipstream of the many skaters in front with very little effort. Much anticipated were team Bont international’s arrival in Australia for this event, a marathon which was scheduled to be part of the world inline cup (WIC), but was pulled from the schedule at the last minute. Nevertheless, there was unmistakable international flavour in the field with Wayne Begg, Nicole Begg, Shane Dobbin, Kalon Dobbin, Geoff Wilton and Scott Arlidge coming from New Zealand, Christoph Luginbühl and Marc Christen from Switzerland, Luca Presti and Fransesco Zangarini from Italy and Wouter Hebbrecht from Belgium all making the trip to Melbourne.
During the course of the marathon, there were many breakaways which really caused the field to spread out some. Most of these, however, failed to really break away from the pack until about halfway when a pack of eight skaters broke away from the main bunch and quickly put a 50 second gap on them. This pack, consisting of Luca Presti, Christoph Luginbühl, Michael Byrne, Danny Finster, Edward Dimmack, Corey Stevens, Kalon Dobbin and Peter Currell. Before long, these skaters had lapped the pack and it became clear very quickly that the end result was going to be down to those eight.
Two laps out, there was a breakaway consisting of Danny Finster, Christoph Luginbühl, and Peter Currell which managed to put some distance onto the field. When they came round for the bell lap, Peter Currell had gotten away from that breakaway.
The photographer from “captured.net.au” sprints to the line in time for a shot of the finish. Much to our dismay, there wasn’t a huge field sprint to finish off the marathon, but rather a battle of guts with Peter Currell coming over the line first in front of Danny Finster and Christoph Luginbühl.
The finish in the ladies division was very close, but Theresa Ryan (in the past, known as Theresa Cliff) put in a good sprint to finish it off and she was followed over the line by (in order) Nicole Begg, Angeline Thomas, Sandra Lorincz and Brooke Lochland.
Peter Currell retelling his victory to Shaun Thompson who spent the day riding around taking photos of the marathon.