Australian Trial Winners visit Bathurst (© Steve Christo)
Within hours of winning at the Australian World Cross Country Selection Trials, members of Team Australia wasted no time in leveraging the home ground advantage for the upcoming World Athletics Cross Country Championships – kick-starting their preparations with a site visit at Bathurst.
Greeted by harsh temperatures and a brutal course, the 44th World Athletics Cross Country Championships and the first on Australian soil quickly became a reality as four automatic selections gained insight into the first World Athletics Series event hosted down under in 27-years.
Winners of the 10km trials Jack Rayner and Rose Davies, along with 2km trial winners Stewart McSweyn and Abbey Caldwell, made the road trip to scout the course and promote the event with local media – hatching plans to take on the world on February 18.
Set to compete at his third World Athletics Cross Country Championships, Rayner is counting down the days until he will gun to crack the top-10 of the world’s best cross country runners in career-best shape – his hopes bolstered by first look at the terrain.
“It feels great to be here, it was a quick turnaround after the race but it’s really exciting to check out the course. It will look completely different in a month’s time, but it’s a massive advantage because it won’t be a shock when we get here,” Rayner said.
A famous sports venue renowned for supercar racing, Mount Panorama will set the backdrop for the best distance runners from all corners of the globe to do battle for the ultimate title of world champion – one that McSweyn and Australia are chasing in the Mixed 4x2km Relay.
“The course is going to be amazing. Bathurst is such a great name in Australian sporting history, so for us to have a race here with the world’s best is a great opportunity,” McSweyn said.
“It’s just so different. It’s going to be a Bathurst design for regional New South Wales, so hopefully that resonates with the people from this area and the greater Australian public.”
The comments were echoed by Caldwell who will join McSweyn in a team that looms as Australia’s best medal-winning hope:
“It’s super exciting, we can have the whole of Australia behind us here and hopefully have as many spectators as possible - especially family and friends who normally wouldn’t be able to see us in the green and gold,” Caldwell said.
General Manager – World Cross Country, Richard Welsh, guided athletes around the iconic Australian course and fielded questions from team coaches, also prompting the public to experience the course for themselves in the Mass Participation races.
“No two cross country courses are the same, here in Bathurst it’s literally running in a paddock. We have the Bondi Beach, the billabong, the mud pit, the boomerang, the vineyard – some really key Aussie connections and moments that we can showcase to the world,” Welsh said.
“One of the other wonderful things about the event is that there are up to 40 different Mass Participation races that people can be a part of. It’s a really unique opportunity for people to run or walk on the course that the world’s best athletes will be doing, and also get a replica finisher medal.”
The Hon. Scott Barrett, MLC highlighted the importance of the once in a lifetime opportunity for athletes and spectators alike to combine to create a World Championships to remember:
“Regional people love sport. The opportunity to be able to come here and see the best athletes in the world, to be able to don the green and gold to cheer for their Australian runners is a great opportunity and I’m sure they will get right behind it,” Barrett said.
“To bring events like this to regional New South Wales is huge, not just for Bathurst but the whole district. There will be people coming from all around the world to see how great it is.”
Buoyant about the favourable conditions for the acclimatised Australian team, a tongue-in-cheek Davies is optimistic that the milestone event will add to the legacy of one of Australia’s most prominent sporting venues.
“It will be so much better than the car racing! We have the best runners in the world coming so definitely come and watch,” Davies said.
For tickets and Mass Participation race entire, CLICK HERE.
By Lachlan Moorhouse, Athletics Australi