Chat with the FIS Race Directors: Joseph Fitzgerald

04 December 2013 22:34
Joseph Fitzgerald
Joseph Fitzgerald -
GEPA Pictures

On the eve of the start of the FIS Freestyle Ski World Cup 2013/14 in the Northern Hemisphere, FIS Freestyle Coordinator Joseph Fitzgerald shared his insights on the 2013/14 season.

It's an exciting winter ahead for the Freestyle skiers. What is new for the athletes and what can fans look forward to?

It is our 35th FIS Freestyle Ski World Cup season, and the way things have come together the 2013/14 season is shaping up to be one of the best ever.

With halfpipe and slopestyle scheduled to make their debuts at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, for this season we have a World Cup schedule where all five FIS Freestyle events are now certified for Olympic competition. This season, all FIS Freestyle competitors will have many great opportunities to compete at the highest level to challenge for the World Cup globes and strive to qualify for the Olympics.

It sounds like it will be an extensive schedule this season.

It's a wide-ranging, comprehensive World Cup tour with competitions in 13 nations at some 23 host ski resorts, with Organisers that will provide 80 competitions for our 750 competitors from 40 nations.

There is something for everyone on the Freestyle tour again this year. If you like ski racing, we have ski cross, a revved-up version of alpine racing with tremendously skilled athletes racing in a beefed-up terrain park. If you want something a little younger, or you like skiing a little more ‘new school’, check out the wild tricks being performed in the halfpipe or on the slopestyle courses. Or, if you like some more traditional freestyle skiing, then check out the refined skills and talents of the mogul skiers and the aerialists.

Weather and snow-wise, this is shaping up to be the best December winter start in some time. Host resorts in central Europe, Finland, China and North America have had good snowfalls and have good temperatures to make snow to add to already solid bases. Our early season resorts are often strategically chosen to be at higher altitudes and all are off to a great start.

With some help from Mother Nature, together with a revised and renovated Freestyle World Cup programme that now features five Olympic-certified events and Freestyle competitions set to take off worldwide beginning this week, it's an exciting time to be a skier.

The interest in Freestyle Skiing has increased enormously over the past years. What effect does this have on the competitions and the general environment of the sport?

Along with the increase in the number of events, participating nations, and competitors, our promotional distribution has expanded greatly in the past few years.

TV markets and commercial marketers are looking for younger audiences in winter sports and we can deliver this  with many of our events.

There has been a significant change in the TV distribution patterns and this has had an impacted in Europe with many important TV stations airing competitions. Previously, our media exposure was based in North America; however, now there is a much more global development, including a trend that is seeing stronger competitors coming out of Asia. We now have many top performers and several World Cup winners from places including Japan, China, and Korea to compete with and push the North American and European athletes and fuel the global progression that makes Freestyle so exciting.

How about the Olympics?

This seven-year  development project on the side of the mountain in Rosa Khutor will become a reality this February 2014. Rosa Khutor ski resort and the Sochi 2014 Organising Committee have worked to produce better freestyle skiing courses and stadiums than we could ever have ever imagined.

At Rosa Khutor there are two specially constructed stadiums, five purpose-built courses, a host nation with a strong history in our discipline and the best ever assembled group of international competitors waiting to show-off their skills.

We have front-loaded the World Cup tour with as many qualification competitions as possible in December and January.

The biggest story to watch in the early phase of the 2013/14 World Cup season could be described as the ‘best of the best’, as the top 285 skiers on the World Cup tour (or about 1/3 of the total field) will be trying as hard as they can to qualify for the quota spots and to earn an invitation from their National Olympic Committees to participate in Rosa Khutor at the ‘big show’. This will all play out in the next 60 days of competition as something of a massive sports reality show, and the entertainment value is huge.

Some final words?

It requires major effort by literally thousands of people around the world to bring all of these competitions to fruition. In advance of all the events, I would like thank all of the National Ski Associations, officials, competition Organisers, competitors, team officials and TV companies for their collective hard work and effort to support the FIS Freestyle World Cup and help us bring the world's best skiing to the world at large.