My next interaction with them was in 1997. I had just come 5th in a World Cup race in Austria and was invited by a headhunter to participate at Sexton (ITA). Could my manager (daughter) come too, I asked? Yes. Could she be given an elite start and race juniors? Yes. This meant that all our transport, accommodation and food costs were covered, plus an appearance fee. We were on.
Our accommodation, Kreuzbergpass Hotel, was absolutely brilliant, situated with shapely mountains all around, walking and running right from the door, and, almost as exciting, it boasted a famous chef whose meals were utterly memorable. By the time we’d arrived, we’d both just raced the IAAF World Championships, and this Sexton event was in my two-week “let my hair down” period after the Worlds. If you’re going to be a glutton, THIS is the place to do it.
“No worries. Australia very fit-a,” I rather cheekily replied, with a nonchalance that I didn’t quite feel, but it was simply too beautiful to do the right thing and laze by the pool, reclining supinely.
We were expected to rest instead of exploring THIS??
On race day, the foolhardiness of my attitudes sank in as SKY-TV approached me for an interview, and as I watched the normal set of fit mountain runners warming up, and, in this case worse – as they hadn’t just killed themselves racing the Worlds like we had – the Italian XC Ski team had also turned up, and if you know anything about sports’ science, you’ll know that XC skiers are amongst the fittest individuals on earth. Mountain running, more than anything else, is a test of fitness and determination. XC skiers medal in both categories. Help.
Happily, the story ends well. Australia produced what they wanted. Kirsten finished first junior, and in the overall money as well. I won the seniors. Italians love winners.
We were given amazing treatment post race, including more free food and accommodation, this time up high in the Zsigmondyhuette (above).
Sexton thus has a very special place in my heart, and in 2000, when I was at Klagenfurt University (AUT) for a semester, we returned there as a family to go running in the snow along the lower paths.