Australian National Team member Jessica Yeaton smashed the previous women’s record by nearly three minutes to win the 2020 American Birkebeiner 50km race, finishing 41 seconds ahead of five times winter Olympian Riitta-Liisa Roponen from Finland and Erika Flowers from Montana.
The American Birkebeiner is the largest ski marathon in North America and part of the Worldloppet series of international ski races, which also includes our own Kangaroo Hoppet at Falls Creek.
Originally from Perth and now studying Physical Therapy full time at the University of Albuquerque in New Mexico, Jessica said she headed into the race with no expectations and was ecstatic with the final result. “I wasn’t sure how I’d go having not raced in a while, but I’d been training really well – although I had absolutely not planned on winning,” Yeaton said. “It was an awesome race – I’d heard from many people about how amazing a scene it is and I’ve always wanted to go,” she said.
“It lived up to every story I’d heard – it was an amazing experience.”
Yeaton said she could not have imagined a more perfect day, with bluebird conditions topped off with the gold medal. “The skiing was perfect and the conditions were literally incredible,” Yeaton said, “ … just being in that environment where everyone is psyched on cross country skiing was an amazing experience, you don’t get that everywhere.”
Jessica returned immediately after the event to Albuquerque and a week of exams at the University of New Mexico where she is studying Physical Therapy.
Jess’s win makes her only the second Australian to win an overseas Worldloppet race ….. the first Aussie win was at the Sapporo Ski Marathon in 2010 when local Mount Beauty skier Belinda Phillips won the women’s title by over 4 minutes.
For the record, and hopefully, there will not be too many corrections to this list coming in after it is published, here is a list of all the Australians who have had top-five results at northern hemisphere Worldloppet events.
- 1982 Birkebeiner-rennet (NOR) — Colleen Bolton (NSW) 2nd
- 1992 American Birkebeiner (USA) — Mark Gray (Vic) 5th
- 2000 Keskinada (CAN) — Ben Derrick (Vic) 2nd
- 2010 Sapporo Ski Marathon (JAP) — Belinda Phillips (Vic) 1st
- 2020 American Birkebeiner (USA) — Jessica Yeaton 1st
Thanks, American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation for the use of the photos.