News from the World of Skiing 

  FIS Nordic World Ski Championships open in Sapporo ... more

  FIS President highly satisfied with ¸re 2007 ... more

  Freestyle and Snowboard FIS World Cups in Japan ... more

  Ek and Ahrlin win at Tartu Marathon ... more

  Technical finals to go - 2007 Nor-Am Cup ... more

  Schild and Byggmark atop prize money rankings ... more


 Member News 

  Future of Alpine Skiing: Panel discussion in ¸re ... more


 In Depth 

  One month to go: Thyon 2007 ... more


 News from the World of Skiing 

FIS Nordic World Ski Championships open in Sapporo
Cross-Country sprint course in Sapporo Dome
Photo: NordicFocus

The FIS Nordic World Ski Championships debut in Asia from 22nd February to 4th March. FIS President Gian Franco Kasper will open the Championships at the official Opening Ceremony at 18:00 (10:00 CET) tomorrow Thursday, 22nd February.

More than 480 athletes representing 49 nations have been entered to compete in Sapporo, accompanied by at least the same number of officials. Whilst 125 ladies from 33 nations and 197 men from 47 nations are registered to compete in Cross-Country, approximately 68 athletes from 17 nations will participate in the Nordic Combined events and 93 athletes from 21 nations in Ski Jumping. At least 1150 international media representatives will be on-site to report as a total of 54 medals will be awarded in 18 events.

"By staging the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Sapporo, Japan we are hoping to promote the development of the FIS Nordic disciplines throughout Asia, especially in China and Korea.. The Japanese already have long traditions in Ski Jumping but we would like to make them equally excited about Cross-Country," said Gian Franco Kasper.

The competitions will begin with the Cross-Country Skiing sprint races in the classical technique on Thursday. The races will be held at the Sapporo Dome and have already been sold out to an impressive capacity of 30'000; the finals will be staged after the official Opening Ceremony as of 19:30 local time (11:30 CET). This will be the first time that Cross-Country championship competitions are held indoors, as well as the first time Cross-Country title events are held at night. The competitions in the Dome will continue on Friday with the Cross-Country team sprints and Nordic Combined sprint event, for which the skiing race will also be staged indoors.

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FIS President highly satisfied with ¸re 2007
Gian Franco Kasper, FIS President

After 16 exciting days of competition, the 39th FIS Alpine World Ski Championships concluded in ¸re (SWE). In the first of the last three events, 22-year-old Sarka Zahrobska made history in the ladies' slalom by winning the first gold medal in Alpine Skiing for the Czech Republic.. The Bormio bronze medalist prevailed narrowly - 0.11 and 0.16 seconds, respectively - ahead of the pre-competition favorites Marlies Schild (AUT) and Anja Paerson (SWE). In the men's slalom, Mario Matt brought the sole men's gold medal for Austria. In repeating his 2001 title, Matt won with a margin of 1.81 seconds! Accompanying Matt on the podium, 25-year-old Manfred M”lgg (ITA) and 22-year-old Jean-Baptiste Grange, who took the first medal for France, surprised as dozens of skiers failed to finish the race as they risked everything in their pursuit of a medal on challenging courses, particularly the first run.

The nations' team event, then, was a demonstration of Austrian strength, followed by the other strong nations of these championships, Sweden and Switzerland. And, with the victory on the final day, Austria also won the medals ranking with a total of nine medals, three of each, followed by Sweden with seven and Switzerland with six. All in all, nine nations won medals, six of them gold. Anja Paerson with five medals (three gold and a silver and bronze each) was the most successful individual athlete.

"The championships in ¸re were one of the most beautiful, best-organized FIS Alpine World Ski Championships we have ever had. It is good for ski sport to have winners representing several nations; national stars are what we need to promote skiing on a broad basis. From that perspective, it was also very good to have the Scandinavian victories through Anja Paerson (SWE) and Aksel Lund Svindal (NOR)," commented Gian Franco Kasper, FIS President. "At the same time, I am convinced that these championships and especially the superb pictures broadcast from the competitions served as a great commercial for the entire region around ¸re, not only around Scandinavia but also further beyond," he added.

A total of 80'000 estimated spectators attended the 11 medal events. The men's slalom was the best-attended event with estimated 15'000 spectators. The various side events, such as the invitational Ski Star parallel slalom featuring some of world's most famous alpine skiers including local hero Ingemar Stenmark, a dual moguls invitational and slopestyle new generation competition as well as a number of concerts and other activities in the Festival Arena, drew a significant number of visitors and spectators.

The 40th FIS Alpine World Ski Championships will be held in Val d'Isere (FRA) in February 2009.

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Freestyle and Snowboard FIS World Cups in Japan
Ski cross 2007 FIS World Cup winners
Snowboardcross in Furano (JPN)

The season's third and last Freestyle FIS World Cup competition in ski cross took place last Friday in Listel / Inawashiro (JPN), the venue of the 2009 Freestyle FIS World Championships. Japan's Hiroomi Takizawa continued his strong season performances by taking his first victory. Audun Groenvold of Norway, the winner of the season's first two World Cups, ranked only 12th but narrowly held onto his World Cup leader's jersey, claiming the small crystal globe in the ski cross World Cup. Groenvold took the title just 2 points ahead of reigning World Cup and World Champion Tomas Kraus (CZE). In the ladies' competition, last year's FIS World Cup ski cross champion Ophelie David took her first season victory. Behind her, 38-year-old Magdalena Iljans of Sweden and 20-year-old Meryl Boulangeat of France rounded out the podium. The same three athletes controlled the ski cross FIS World Cup rankings for the ladies: While David repeated her claim to the crystal globe, Iljans finished 2nd and Boulangeat 3rd.

In the Inawashiro moguls competitions on Saturday, Jennifer Heil (CAN) captured her third straight World Cup of the season. In the men's competition, only three competitors made it down with near flawless runs on the 200-meter-long, 29.5-degree course. The win went to defending moguls FIS World Champion Nathan Roberts (USA). In the ladies' FIS World Cup moguls standings, Heil continues to lead while in the men's standings, Canadian-born Dale Begg-Smith who competes for Australia held onto the leader's jersey despite finishing fourth. On Sunday, persistent fog reduced a scheduled dual moguls contest to a lone qualifying run for the men; the ladies' event had to be cancelled due to the pending onset of darkness. Olympic and defending World Cup champion Begg-Smith won the qualifying run and therefore the World Cup competition ahead of Olympic silver medalist Mikko Ronkainen (FIN).

The NOKIA Snowboard FIS World Cup continued in Furano (JPN), the host of 2006 World Cup finals. Isabella Dal Balcon (ITA) and Matthew Morison (CAN) grabbed the top spots in the season's fifth parallel giant slalom. For Dal Balcon, it was a close call because she and Fraenzi Kohli (SUI) ended up in a photo finish. However, since Dal Balcon caught up a penalty gap of 1.5 seconds, she secured her second World Cup victory. On the men's side, Matthew Morison celebrated his maiden World Cup triumph after beating World Cup leader Simon Schoch. Schoch now only has to place 18th in one of the remaining two parallel events to secure the parallel World Cup title. In the ladies' rankings, Heidi Neururer (AUT) leads by 60 points over teammate Doresia Krings.

In the season's opening snowboardcross World Cup event, Team Canada with Maelle Ricker and Drew Neilson claimed a double victory. On the jumpy course, Ricker relegated reigning World and Olympic Champion Lindsey Jacobellis (USA) to 2nd place while Neilson successfully competed against Nate Holland (USA), Simon Bonenfant (CAN) and 2006 Olympic Champion Seth Wescott (USA).

The half-pipe contest saw the Japanese home team giving no chance to the others by taking five of six podium spots. Only 23-year-old Holly Crawford (AUS) was able break the lines of Asian freestyle power to take the ladies' top podium. On the men's side, 16-year-old Ryoh Aono led a Japanese podium sweep by clinching his first World Cup title.

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Ek and Ahrlin win at Tartu Marathon
Jerry Ahrlin at finish
Photo: Club Tartu Maraton

Sweden's Elin Ek and Jerry Ahrlin extended their leads in the overall classification of the FIS Marathon Cup after taking wins in the 4th stage at Estonia's 63km Tartu Marathon last weekend. Due to the challenging snow situation, the event had been in question for a long while but thanks to the hard work by the course crew and many volunteers, the track was made skiable. The mixed snow that had seen warm and cold temperatures was fast and both Ahrlin and Ek broke the course records, finishing in 2:42:27 and 3:07:03, respectively. Over 4,700 competitors took part in the competition. It was the first time that the race was covered by live TV transmission, produced by Estonian TV with the help of two helicopters and several ski-doos in addition to still cameras.

Only two stages remain in the Cup, but the competitors still have to cover 132km - 90km in classical and 42km in the free technique - before the finish line at Schanf in Switzerland's Engadin Valley on 11th March. The next stage is Sweden's renowned Vasaloppet, the world's largest ski race with over 15,000 participants for the 90km competition, which runs from Salen to Mora on 4th March.

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Technical finals to go - 2007 Nor-Am Cup
Erik Fisher (USA)

As there are just two slalom and giant slalom events each remaining on the ladies and men's schedules in the 2006/2007 FIS Nor-Am Cup, Andrew Weibrecht and Erik Fisher (both USA and 21 years of age) have a clear lead in the overall men's standings. With 682 and 646 points, respectively, they are some 200 points ahead of the Canadian trio Gareth Sine, Jeffrey Frisch and Louis-Pierre Helie. Weibrecht already confirmed the super-G title on the Nor-Am circuit while Fisher took the downhill honors. So far, 150 men have scored Nor-Am Cup points.

In the ladies' standings, 19-year-old Leanne Smith (USA) leads in the overall, 174 points ahead of 2nd-place-ranked Megan McJames. She already secured the season's super-G title while Canadian Sherry Lawrence claimed the Nor-Am Cup victory in downhill. Altogether, 116 ladies are included in the overall rankings.

With the exception of two cancelled ladies' speed events, the current Nor-Am Cup season has progressed very close to the plan, including the first super combined events that were staged at Panorama Mountain (CAN) and Apex (CAN). Unfortunately, the third scheduled super combined events, as well as super-G races for both the ladies and men, had to be cancelled last week at Big Mountain, Montana, due to inclement weather.

The last stop for the Nor-Am technical events will be at Panorama Mountain (CAN) from 14th-17th March.

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Schild and Byggmark atop prize money rankings
Marlies Schild (AUT)
Photo: Agence Zoom
Jens Byggmark (SWE)
Photo: Agence Zoom

As the Audi FIS Alpine World Cup resumes, Marlies Schild (AUT) and Jens Byggmark (SWE) lead the prize money rankings despite their slightly disappointing showing at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Are (SWE). Schild has so far collected six World Cup victories and nine podium places this season, earning CHF 344'272. Jens Byggmark, who has ranked in the top ten in all the seven slalom races held so far, has netted CHF 258'910.

Prize Money rankings, Audi FIS Alpine World Cup as of 21st February (in CHF):
Men
1. Jens Byggmark (SWE) 258 910
2. Bode Miller (USA) 188 685
3.. Benjamin Raich (AUT) 187 227
4. Mario Matt (AUT) 164 065
5. Aksel Lund Svindal (NOR)148 088

Ladies
1. Marlies Schild (AUT) 344 272
2. Renate G”tschl (AUT) 296 000
3. Lindsey Kildow (USA) 221 581
4. Julia Mancuso (USA) 218 340
5. Nicole Hosp (AUT) 191 455

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 Member News 

Future of Alpine Skiing: Panel discussion in ¸re
Panel on Future of Alpine Skiing
Photo: MTV3

The Finnish Ski Association hosted a panel discussion on Alpine Skiing during the FIS World Ski Championships in ¸re (SWE). The invited panelists discussing the sport's future and its challenges and possibilities included Sarah Lewis, FIS Secretary General; Niklas Carlsson, Event Manager of ¸re 2007 AB; Rudi Huber, Atomic Racing Director; Tatu Lehmuskallio, Director of Finnish TV channel MTV3 Sports; Roberto Nosotti, Director at Media Partners; and Martti Uusitalo, Senior Vice President of Halti.

Whilst the panelists agreed that the ¸re World Ski Championships had provided terrific promotion for alpine ski racing - which continues to be one of the most important winter sports - they also agreed that the sport is faced with significant challenges. With an ever-increasing supply of leisure options, no form of entertainment can afford to stand still. Indeed, a sport like skiing must continuously develop, and its marketing re-invent itself. Several panelists pointed out their concern with the aging image of alpine skiing that made it less attractive to today's youth. Alpine Skiing also tends to be followed mainly by fans that also ski, and the question remains, how to get the non-skiers interested in skiing? Several participants highlighted ski cross as a good example of an event with a younger image and great future.

Some of the future development suggestions included the increasing importance of side events to complement sports competitions at events such as the World Ski Championships and FIS World Cup, as shown by the organizers in ¸re who consciously built a broad side event program. The role of sponsors in activating their sponsorship engagement and the role of the media in promoting skiing through innovative advertising was also highlighted. The growing importance of authentic on-site experiences - the feel and touch part of attendance - was also noted: future organizers are likely to be challenged to provide more interactive, experiential means of attending an event be it through new spectator areas next to the starting hut or in critical parts of the course. The panel agreed that while some adjustments can be made in the rules and technical areas of Alpine Skiing, such as optimizing the duration of the championships, individual competitions and coordinating the FIS competition calendars, the focus should be on holistic management of Alpine Skiing as a product. But most of all, the panel stressed, Alpine Skiing needs stars, real personalities that can help popularize the sport at home and beyond, as well as in new, emerging markets.

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 In Depth 

One month to go: Thyon 2007

The Thyon region in Switzerland will host the 2007 FIS Telemark World Championships and FIS Junior World Telemark Championships from 24th to 27th March. The resort at Thyon is a natural selection to stage the Telemark World Championships because of the sport's growing popularity throughout Switzerland and particularly within the region of Thyon. A national coaching center has recently been established there to enable athletes throughout the area to raise their level of competition to the elite echelon. Success of skiers such as Fran‡oise Matter, now Besse, and Am‚lie Reymond have also helped raise the sport's profile. As a result, an increasing number of Swiss athletes have competed in FIS World Cup events.

At the Telemark Championships, competitions include Telemark classic, Telemark sprint classic and Telemark - formerly known as Telemark giant slalom - for the ladies and men, in both the open and junior categories.˙Medals will be awarded to the top three athletes in each event and FIS World Championship medals to the top three athletes with the best total racing time in the three events given a minimum of eight nations on the start list.

The Thyon-R‚gion is no newcomer to hosting elite winter sporting events. It held very well-organized FIS Telemark World Cup events in 2004 and 2005. Crans-Montana, a neighboring resort, has hosted several FIS Alpine World Cups. Veysonnaz, another resort in the region, has also hosted numerous FIS Alpine World Cups, as well as the 2005 European Olympic Youth Festival which showcased 1200 athletes hailing from 48 countries. The FIS Telemark World Championships were organized in Meiringen, Switzerland in 1997.

During the event, Thyon will also be staging a festival in the village to emphasize the cultural and culinary delights of the province including raclette, fondue, and dishes with the region's famous cheese varieties. An elaborate opening ceremony will commence the Championships and all in all, a festive atmosphere will help promote the event, Telemark as a sport, as well as the culture of the canton of Valais. For the closing ceremonies, the Swiss group Sonalp will be entertaining the crowd in the village of Thyon.

How to get there: To access the Thyon-R‚gion by car from Geneva, take the A1 motorway towards Lausanne, and then take the A9 towards Villars-Sainte-Croix. Take exit number 27 off the A9 towards Sion-Est and merge onto Route D' H‚rens. Stay on Route D' H‚rens through the next two roundabouts and then follow the signs for Thyon for approximately the next six kilometers.

Reigning 2005 FIS World Champions from Beitostoelen (NOR)˙
Ladies
Giant Slalom: Francoise Matter (SUI)
Sprint: Sigrid Rykhus (NOR)
Classic: Sandra Haelldahl (SWE)

Men
Giant Slalom: Eirik Rykhus (NOR)
Sprint: Eirik Rykhus (NOR)
Classic: Eirik Borgersen (NOR)

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