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Welcome to the 56th edition of the FIS Newsflash! As you can see, the FIS Newsflash enters the Olympic year with a new look and feel. We hope you like it and will enjoy its contents. As always, we appreciate your feedback - please send any comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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40th season of FIS World Cup Alpine ... more
Sporty welcome to the New Year at FIS "Silvesterlufe" ... more After early season successes, China sets high goals for Turin ... more
Tragic death of alpine coach Severino Bottero ... more
Interview with FIS President ... more
40th season of FIS World Cup Alpine
The current season is the 40th season of the FIS World Cup Alpine. And this week marks the anniversary of the first World Cup race that took place at Berchtesgaden (GER) on January 5th, 1967. Heini Messner (AUT) was the winner of the first World Cup slalom race, coming through from 10th position after the first run to win. At that time, in order to enhance the brand-new World Cup status, the races were timed to the thousandth of a second.
As we know now, the World Cup - the brainchild of the so-called Gang of Four around Serge Lang, a journalist with "L'Equipe" - changed the world of skiing.. Initially, however, most newspapers wrote "World Cup" in inverted commas because they were not convinced of the idea. However, the World Cup was officially acknowledged at the 1967 FIS Congress in Beirut. Jean-Claude Killy (FRA), winner of the first overall World Cup, became the best promoter of the new competition. He said: "For me the World Cup is more important than World Championships or the Olympic Winter Games." A year later he clinched three Olympic gold medals, still saying the same.
Sporty welcome to the New Year at FIS "Silvesterlufe"
The New Year's weekend traditionally features a busy winter sport schedule. This time was no exception, with a total of ten FIS World Cup events staged around Central Europe.
The cross-country skiers celebrated the New Year in Nove Mesto na Morave (CZE), a well-received premiere in the history of the FIS World Cup Cross-Country including a big World Cup New Year's party. While Katharina Neumannova, the home favorite, and Vincent Vittoz (FRA) repeated their victories from January 2005, the 32,500 fans got a chance to applaud two first-time World Cup winners as Alena Sidko (RUS) and Bjrn Lind (SWE) triumphed in the sprint races. Overall, the Swedish team had an excellent showing in the sprint races, placing four men and two ladies in the top five.
At the same time, three so-called big nations are still waiting on their first season victory: While Roar Ljoekelsoey (NOR) finished a close second in Oberstdorf, Austrian and German jumpers continue to dream about a victory at the remaining two competitions in Innsbruck and Bischofshofen (AUT).
The first part of the Warsteiner Grand Prix Germany in Nordic Combined attracted a large crowd to Oberhof. While enjoying the outstanding atmosphere, Hannu Manninen (FIN) and Ronny Ackermann (GER) again sprinted for the victory. Daito Takahashi (JPN), who placed fifth, received the "Warsteiner Award", a special prize to the best athlete not ranked in the World Cup top fifteen before the race.
In Lienz (AUT), the Austrian team knew how to use their home course advantage to their benefit in the ladies' World Cup Alpine races. Even though there were nine nations represented in the top 12 in the giant slalom, the Austrians placed all ten starters in the top 26. In slalom they took the 1st, 2nd and 5th places, with Marlies Schild leading the pack.
The men's FIS World Cup Alpine, returning to Bormio (ITA) for the first time after the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships last year, provided the audience with ski sport at its best as the Stelvio, one of the most demanding courses in the downhill circuit, reconfirmed why most athletes hold such respect for it. Tobias Grnenfelder (SUI), who fell shortly before the finish and damaged a knee ligament when he was seemingly on course to win the race, yet nevertheless managed to slide through the finish in 3rd place, demonstrated extraordinary sportsmanship as he braved his injuries to stand on the podium to enjoy his first-ever top three finish (see picture). Daron Rahlves, the king of the Stelvio who is planning to retire after the season, announced that next year he plans to make a film about the FIS World Cup: "I think so far has no one has been able to express exactly what we feel like on the course. I believe I can do that."
After early season successes, China sets high goals for Turin
More than 11,400 competitors participated in the 4th edition of the Chinese Vasaloppet over the New Year's weekend. Although Stanislav Rezak (CZE) repeated his victory from last year, the Chinese skiers have never been this close behind their foreign guests: Li Geliang, finishing 3rd, lost just 29 seconds to the winner, with Xia Wen and Han Danwei following in 5th and 6th places. The Chinese success in the local Vasaloppet is just another indication of how China is rapidly catching up with the top skiing nations, with several athletes posting great results earlier this season.
In Beitostoelen (NOR), China won its first-ever points in the FIS World Cup Cross-Country, as Li Hongxue came in 23rd and Wang Chunli placed 28th in the 10km skating race. A week earlier, Wang Chunli had become the first Chinese Cross-Country skier to win a FIS race in Saariselk (FIN). A perfect conclusion for the cross-country season is expected in March 2006, when for the first time the FIS World Cup Cross-Country Sprint Final will be held at an indoor sports stadium in Changchun, one of the main centers for winter sports in the country and the to-be-host of the sixth Winter Asian Games in 2007. The first-ever FIS World Cup was held in China in January 2004 when Harbin hosted a Freestyle Skiing aerials competition.
Just before the holidays, the Chinese team took four of the 12 available podium places in the Freestyle Skiing World Cup held in Changchun. In the current ladies overall World Cup rankings, there are 5 Chinese athletes in the top 12, with Xu Nannan and Nina Li leading the list. On the men's side, Qiu Sen is ranked 7th.
The Chinese Snowboard team has also made an impact on the Nokia FIS Snowboard World Cup this season. The just 14-year-old Sun Zhifang surprised by placing 8th in the half-pipe season opener in Valle Nevado (CHI) in September, with another three of her team mates also scoring World Cup points so far.
Such early successes have enabled the Chinese team to set ambitious goals for the Olympics. While it was Xu Nannan who put China on the world skiing map by winning the silver medal in Freestyle Skiing at the Nagano Winter Olympics in 1998, Li Nina became the first Chinese to win in the FIS World Championships last winter when she won the aerials title. Along with several of her teammates, Li Nina is also one of the greatest favorites to become the first Chinese Olympic skiing gold medalist in Torino in February.
Tragic death of alpine coach Severino Bottero
FIS sends its sincerest condolences to the family and friends of Severino Bottero, the 47-year old Italian, a well-respected and successful coach for more than 20 years, presently of the French men's alpine team, who died in a tragic car accident early on January 2nd, 2006 on his way to a training camp.
Interview with FIS President
At the start of the Olympic year, FIS Newsflash had a chance to query Mr. Gian Franco Kasper about his thoughts of the season so far and get insight into his expectations for the remainder.
FIS Newflash: Would you provide your impression of the season so far?
Mr. Kasper: In my view, the early season was a success. There have been only few changes to the FIS calendar; with the exception of Scandinavia the snow conditions have been good and the large majority of the races have taken place as scheduled, without major accidents or terrible injuries.
I am also pleased about the high quality of the FIS World Cup competitions, many of which I was able to follow on-site. The number of athletes vying for victory has increased and many nations have already celebrated podium places, especially in alpine skiing and ski jumping.
However, with just one third behind us, we still have a long season ahead. There are another 3800 entries in the FIS Calendar for this season. And we should not forget that the season's highlights are still to come: The FIS Ski Flying World Championships in January and the Olympic Winter Games in February.
FIS Newflash: With less than 40 days to go before the XX Olympic Winter Games, what are your expectations for Turin 2006?
Mr. Kasper: From a sporting perspective, everything is looking good and the FIS disciplines are looking forward to great Games. Unfortunately, at the moment, there is little snow in the competition venues. While I am confident about the technical capabilities of the organizers to produce artificial snow, it would be a real pity if there is no snow outside the tracks and trails. Luckily there is still time for the snow to come!
I am also hopeful that the early success and clear Olympic medal chances of such local athletes as Giorgio Rocca and Massimiliano Blardone will attract Italian spectators. Olympic competitions deserve a large audience - it's the spectators that create the true Olympic atmosphere!
I am slightly concerned about transportation and accommodation, especially in the mountains and for the officials and the media.
FIS Newflash: This winter, about a month before the Olympics, the FIS Ski Flying World Championships will take place in Bad Mitterndorf/Kulm (AUT). Could you imagine ski flying becoming an Olympic discipline at some point in the future?
Mr. Kasper: For a ski jumper, ski flying is the ultimate experience. We as spectators may not be able to tell the difference between ski flying and regular ski jumping but for the athletes, breaking the 200m mark can be beaten perhaps only by winning an Olympic medal.
At present, there are only five ski flying hills in the world. There is a reason for that: these hills are subject to extreme requirements in terms of wind and weather conditions, and overall athlete safety. As a result, they are also very expensive. At the same time, given the physical drain on the athletes during ski flying competitions, two competitions per season are a maximum. That is why it makes little sense having more than five ski flying hills in the world. Similarly, we would not want to require each Olympic organizer to build one. In case they already had one, I would be happy to discuss making an exception and having ski flying in the Olympic program in those particular Games!
c FIS. All rights reserved. International Ski Federation, CH-3653 Oberhofen (Switzerland). Tel. +41 33 244 61 61, Fax +41 33 244 61 71, www.fis-ski.com
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