News from the World of Skiing 

Back in World Cup action
Lahti Ski Games

After the break during the Olympic Winter Games, the FIS World Cups were in full action again during the last week. A total of thirteen venues in seven nations hosted World Cup events in six FIS disciplines.

Just a week after the last Olympic competitions, the Cross-Country skiers took on the world-famous challenge of the Vasaloppet that was part of the Viessmann FIS World Cup Cross-Country for the first time. In the ladies' 45 km classical technique race from Oxberg to Mora (SWE), overall World Cup leader Marit Bjoergen (NOR) staged an impressive comeback after disappointing Olympics, taking her 5th season and 25th career World Cup victory. In Sunday's traditional 90 km race from Slen to Mora, Daniel Tynell, a Swedish marathon ski specialist, triumphed by just two seconds after more than 4.5 hours of skiing. It was Tynell's second victory in the 82nd edition of the race that saw 14 796 competitors from more than 30 different nations participate and consume 55,000 liters of blueberry soup, 54,600 liters of Power Bar sport drink and 5,220 liters of coffee, among other refreshments.

In the Tuesday evening sprints of Borlnge (SWE), Arianna Follis became only the fifth female World Cup winner from Italy. On the men's side, Devon Kershaw (CAN) prevented an all-Swedish podium as he continued the series of Canadian Cross-Country successes this winter by ranking 3rd, his first-ever top ten finish.

In the E-ON Ruhrgas FIS World Cup Ski Jumping in Lahti (FIN) on Sunday, the first of the four competitions making up the Nordic Tournament, the 2002 Junior World Champion Janne Happonen (FIN) surprised everyone by taking his first World Cup victory that was also his first individual podium place. The World Cup leader Jakub Janda (CZE) took his 10th World Cup podium place this winter after disappointing Torino Games. In Saturday's night Team Event, 30,000 people saw Andreas Widhoelzl (AUT) set the new World Cup hill record of 135.5 m and lead his team to a clear victory over Norway. In the second Nordic Tournament competition in Kuopio (FIN), Andreas Kttel (SUI) took his third victory of the season and the lead in Tournament rankings before the competitions in Lillehammer and Oslo/Holmenkollen (NOR).

The traditional Lahti Ski Games also hosted the first two Warsteiner FIS World Cup Nordic Combined races after Turin. Felix Gottwald (AUT) delivered an impressive cross-country race by moving from 27th to the podium (3rd) on Saturday, followed by Andreas Hurschler (SUI) whose second-fastest skiing time resulted in the career-best 5th position. In Sunday's Hurricane Sprint, Bjrn Kircheisen (GER) took the first season victory for the German World Cup team as eight nations celebrated top ten finishes.


Ted Ligety (USA)
St. Petersburg Big Air Action

In the ladies' AUDI FIS Alpine World Cup held in Hafjell (NOR), Maria-Jose Rienda Contreras (SPA) took revenge after finishing 13th in Sestriere by winning her fourth giant slalom of the season and becoming a real challenge to Anja Prson (SWE) in the discipline World Cup. In Saturday's super combined, for the first time consisting of a super-G with the slalom run, Janica Kostelic took her 7th consecutive win in the ladies' combined. On Friday, World Cup history was made as three ladies shared victory in the super-G: Before Nadya Styger (SUI), Michaela Dorfmeister (AUT) und Lindsey Kildow (USA), three athletes had shared the top of the podium only in the ladies' giant slalom in Slden in October 2002. Finally, spare a thought for Kelly Vanderbeek (CAN) who finished 4th in the super-G, one hundredth of a second behind and that after finishing 4th in the super-G in San Sicario, three hundredths slower than the bronze medalist!

In the first giant slalom in the men's AUDI FIS Alpine World Cup in Yongpyong (KOR), the Italian men's team found solace after a poor showing at the home Olympics by taking one-two led by Davide Simoncelli before Massimiliano Blardone. In the second giant slalom, the Olympic Champion in the Combined, Ted Ligety of the USA, took his first World Cup victory after having overslept for the first race due to jetlag. In both races, there were eight nations represented in the top ten.

In the NOKIA FIS Snowboard World Cup, 10,000 screaming spectators witnessed a Finnish sweep of the podium at the season's last big air World Cup at the Kirov stadium in St. Petersburg (RUS) as the discipline Crystal Globe went to Stefan Gimpl (AUT). After Shukolovo debuted as World Cup host with parallel slalom competitions on Wednesday, St. Petersburg's Tuutari Park hosted the season's last and its second parallel slalom World Cup on Friday. The Russian excursion of the Snowboard World Cup was especially successful for Team Switzerland that took seven of the 12 parallel slalom podium places.


Another big week for Freestyle
Moguls course in Jisan Forest
First Junior Champions in skicross

It was one of the busiest weeks in the history of FIS Freestyle Skiing with aerials in Davos (SUI), moguls first in Jisan Forest (KOR) then in Inawashiro (JPN), and the FIS Freestyle Junior World Championships in Krasnoe Ozero (RUS). Joe Fitzgerald, FIS Freestyle Coordinator, said: "I cannot remember when there was that much Freestyle activity occurring on two continents during one week."

The mogulists took to slopes of Jisan Forest just outside of Seoul on the Korean National Day, Wednesday, March 1st. The first FIS Freestyle Skiing World Cup held in Korea, the well organized competitions attracted an enthralled crowd of more than 5,000. In Inawashiro (JPN), the host venue for the 2009 Freestyle FIS World Championships and World Cup host for the 10th time, the flamboyant owner of the Listel Ski Fananasia and a Freestyle fanatic, Choji Suzuki, presented special prizes to all the past and present Olympic Champions on-site. To the joy of the enthusiastic crowds, several Japanese skiers made it into the finals with two skiers, Aiko Uemura and Kai Ozaki, making the podium, as the ladies' moguls Olympic Champion, Jennifer Heil (CAN), clinched her third Crystal Globe in three years.

Meanwhile, Davos (SUI) hosted the second-to-last aerials World Cup. The Friday night spectacular was the first aerials World Cup held in Switzerland since the 1999 FIS Freestyle World Championships in Meiringen, showcasing the new Swiss Olympic Aerial Champion Evelyne Leu who placed third, gaining the yellow leader's bib before the World Cup finals.

At the FIS Junior World Championships for Freestyle Skiing in Krasnoe Ozero (RUS), perfect winter conditions set the stage for a great event. A total of ten nations celebrated young medalists in the eight competitions, including the first-ever FIS Junior World Champions for skicross. The winners of the ladies' and men's moguls and aerials races also gained an invitation to the FIS Freestyle World Cup Final in Apex (CAN) in ten days. The medals ranking in Krasnoe Ozero was won by Russia with six medals, followed by France and the USA with four each, Ukraine with three and Germany with two (both gold). The young stars of the championships included Andrey Volkov (RUS) who won both the men's moguls and dual moguls, Alizee Boulangeat (FRA) who won gold in the ladies' dual moguls and bronze in skicross, Elena Muratova (RUS) with silver in moguls and bronze in dual moguls, and Jay Bowman-Kirigin (USA) with silver in dual moguls and bronze in moguls.


Celebration of young stars in Quebec
Anna Fenninger - a star of Quebec

The 25th FIS Junior Alpine World Ski Championships, known as a stepping stone for the current and future World Cup and Olympic skiers from around the world, were held at Le Massif and Mont-Ste-Anne (CAN) from February 28th to March 8th, 2006. More than 240 athletes born in or after 1986, including 13 Olympians, and 200 support staff took part.

13 out of the 36 participating nations celebrated Junior World Championship medals. Like in Sestriere, the medals ranking was won by Austria that won ten out of the 30 available medals, followed by Switzerland with five. The female star of the second Junior World Championships held in Quebec was Anna Fenninger, the 17-year-old Austrian dominator of the European Cup, who won gold in super-G, silver in downhill as well as gold in the Alpine Triple Combined that consists of the combined results in slalom, giant slalom and downhill, calculated according to race points. On the men's side, Romed Baumann of Austria will return home with three medals: silver in both slalom and downhill and gold in the Alpine Triple Combined. Three other young athletes won two medals each: Marianne Aberhalden (SUI), Kathrin Triendl (AUT) and Stefan Guay (CAN). Two young female Olympians also celebrated their first Junior World Champion titles: Maria Pietil-Holmner (SWE) in the slalom and 16-year-old Tina Weirather (LIE) in the giant slalom. A special bonus for all the Junior World Champions is the right to start in the FIS World Cup finals for Alpine Skiing in re (SWE) from 15th - 19th March, 2006.

The all-time Junior Alpine World Ski Championship medal ranking for men is led by the double Olympic Champion Benjamin Raich (AUT) who won five Junior World Champion titles in his time. For ladies, the ranking is led by Sabine Ginther (AUT) with five golds and one silver, followed by two Olympic Champions of Torino, Anja Prson (SWE; 4-0-2) and Julia Mancuso (USA; 4-0-0) - surely a great omen for the young stars of Quebec!


FIS World Cup Finals on three continents
Shirahatayama Cross-Country Course

The finals for the AUDI FIS Alpine World Cup will take place in re (SWE), the host of the 2007 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, from 15th - 19th March, 2006. The 25 best ladies and men per discipline, in addition to this year's Junior World Champions, will compete for final World Cup points in slalom, giant slalom, super-G and downhill. As the season culmination, a Nations Team Event will be staged on Sunday, 19th March, as was staged for the first time at the 2005 World Ski Championships in Bormio (ITA): the competition will consist of two races (super G and a one run slalom) with each nation allowed to enter six athletes though only four, two men and two ladies, will compete to score points for their teams in each race.

In the Nordic disciplines, both the Viessmann FIS World Cup Cross-Country and the Warsteiner FIS World Cup Nordic Combined will close the season at the trial for the 2007 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Sapporo (JPN) on 18-19th March, 2006. At the same time, the ski jumpers will travel to Planica (SLO) for the 11th season final on the ski flying hill there.

In Freestyle Skiing, the moguls and aerials World Cup finals will be held at the Apex Ski Resort, in Penticton, B.C. (CAN), from 17th-19th March, 2006. To participate in Apex, the freestyle skiers need to be ranked in the FIS World Cup Standings in the top 20 for aerials and top 24 for moguls. Also on 17-19th March, 2006, the NOKIA FIS Snowboard World Cup finals will take place in Furano (JPN), with the final competitions in half-pipe, parallel giant slalom and snowboardcross.


 Inside FIS 

FIS Snowboard: Hller moves on

Alex Hller (33) has decided to step down from his position as FIS Snowboard Race Director at the end of the 2005/2006 season. Hller, who had assumed the day-to-day responsibility for the management and organization of the FIS Snowboard discipline at the start of this season, has worked for FIS Snowboard since the summer of 2002 and has played a critical role in developing competitive international snowboarding since 1996. "After having invested such incredible effort and personal interest in a sport for so many years, stepping down is not easy," said Hller and added: "But the time has come for me to spend less time on the road, and more time with our family business let alone with my friends and family members. I have many great memories from the past years, and I am sure I will remain involved with competitive snowboarding in some way."

"Alex has done a fantastic job with making the NOKIA FIS Snowboard World Cup the well-organized, high-quality series of events with significant international appeal that it is today. With his immense enthusiasm and dedication, he has greatly contributed to the development of snowboarding within FIS. We are sorry to see him go but wish him all the best in his future endeavors," said Sarah Lewis, FIS General Secretary.