Atle Skaardal sharing thoughts on recent topics
In his position as the ladies' Chief Race Director, Atle Skaardal is constantly reevaluating the ladies' World Cup Tour and pushing for the best possible events in winter. At the spring meetings in Portoroz, he took a step back, reflected on the situation and shared his toughts on different hot topics.
Last season was very intense for the ladies‘ World Cup, what marked the Tour the most in your opinion?
The World Ski Championships were clearly the highlight of last season and we have to acknowledge the great job St. Moritz did. We knew there would be some challenges, but the Organizing Committee had a solution to every issue. For example, as we had some difficult weather conditions at the beginning, the well-organized crew could react very quickly and allowed us to hold amazing races with a great atmosphere. I think the Championships ended up being a big success.
How was your experience at the test event in Jeongseon, one year before the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018?
We were really happy with the test event this year. Of course, we were lucky because the weather was beautiful there, but I am confident that the crew would also be able to face tougher conditions. Our technical experts have been working together with the organizing committee in Korea for quite a long time now and will keep up the good work until Games’ time. This is an essential help for us. With all that in mind, I think we will experience great Olympic Winter Games next season, even though there is still some work to do.
At the meetings in Portoroz, you added Kronplatz in the calendar. So the ladies’ Tour will go back to the South Tyrolean venue after its Premiere last season. It’s the same for Killington. Do these new organizers bring something fresh to the World Cup Tour?
Yes, I am convinced that it’s a very positive addition to the World Cup Tour. Team members, athletes, coaches, everyone was really excited about the new venues last year. Kronplatz is probably an example of how fast it can work out for an organizer, if they really produce something unique, something exceptional. Kronplatz and Killington did this last year, so they got another shot for next season. I am really happy about that.
With Mikaela Shiffrin, the ladies’ Tour had a new Overall World Cup winner last season. Who else do you think can win the Overall, and how is the balance speed/tech evolving on the ladies’ Tour?
We have some really great stars on the ladies’ side, with many athletes being able to win the Overall. I think it will be a little bit the same than in the past, with Shiffrin and Vonn, our two US super stars, fighting for the Overall. Maybe Lara Gut can come back in a good shape after her injury and hopefully be a factor in this fight. Ilka Stuhec and Sofia Goggia are also on the short list, especially as they excel in various disciplines. I think right now, you need three strong disciplines to be in the fight for the Overall. Maybe Tina Weirather, Federica Brignone or some Swiss girls can also make that step and ski fast in a third discipline, so they could be recognized as Overall athletes. So we’ll see, but I hope we’ll have a good open fight all the way until the World Cup Finals in Are.
Lindsey Vonn is talking about racing with the men and this topic has been discussed in different committees. What’s your opinion on this, is it possible or not?
It will be a very difficult challenge to find a reasonable way of doing this. Because one point that everyone is underestimating, is that we need to have equal rights for everyone. So if the ladies’ are allowed to race with the men, then also the men need to be authorized to ski with the ladies. And I’m not sure this is a direction we want to go. I see it as a very difficult topic. But we have talked about it here in the meetings and I’m confident that everyone will think this through during the summer and then we’ll see if the US Ski Association brings a concrete proposal of how this is supposed to be done to fit into the rules to the meetings in Zurich.