Australian competitors welcomed at nationals

STU PIDDINGTON
Last updated 06:40 14/02/2014
Australian inline skaters
MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE/Fairfax NZ

AUSTRALIAN INVASION: A dozen speed skaters from Victoria are in Timaru this week preparing for the New Zealand Banked Track Championships at Caroline Bay on Saturday and Sunday.

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New Zealand speed skaters may not have it all their own way at their national banked track championships in Timaru, with over a dozen Australians arriving with their eyes on the medals.

Twelve skaters from Victoria arrived on Sunday to prepare for this weekend's event, with several others still to come.

The attraction is both the tough competition and Timaru's world class track, something they do not have across the Tasman.

Timaru coach Bill Begg has welcomed the Australians with open arms, as he believes the strong competition is good for both countries.

"We are at the opposite ends of the earth to the real action, so we welcome any foreign competitors here."

While the Australians cannot take home the titles they can win the medals, with duplicates available for the Kiwis.

Kiwi world champion Peter Michale is expected to dominate the men's competition, but with eight Australians joining in the senior men, he will have to keep his blades flying - especially in the shorter distances.

Paul Garriga set the 300 metre indoor Australian record in November, while John Bueker is also a member of the Australian world championship team. Both will fancy their chances.

Sam Evans is also an Australian rep with his best finish at worlds an 18th place in the 1000m while Harry Stogdale is also one to watch. The 18-year-old hopes to become a junior world champion before he progresses to the senior division, but will race with the big boys at the weekend.

Liam Garriga is an experienced skater and has represented his country twice at the world championships, while Jake Round struck gold in the senior men's 5000m points race at the Australian championships.

Youngsters include 14-year-old Mitchell Ross, who cleaned up his age group at the Australian National Speed Championships. Max Diener started on ice skates and has been inlining outdoors for the past year, so he is looking forward to getting experience on a banked track. Other Australians include 16-year-old Ben Ramcharan and classy masters skater Craig Hart:

Two girls have also made the trip, Charmaine Chu and Paige Hartley, and both are keen to gain some international experience. Timaru's Nicole Begg is expected to make a clean sweep of the distances in the women's racing.

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- The Timaru Herald

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