News from the World of Skiing 

  Nordics at Sapporo 2007 ... more

  5 days to go: Madonna 2007 ... more

  FIS World Cups in action on three continents ... more

  Young Alpine Skiing talents to meet in Flachau/Altenmarkt/Zauchensee ... more

 Inside FIS 

  FIS continues fight against doping - Anti-doping program at Sapporo 2007 ... more

  New on the FIS Web Site: Alpine Ski Brand Rankings ... more

 In Depth 

  Three questions to John Aalberg ... more

 News from the World of Skiing 

Nordics at Sapporo 2007
Katerina Neumannova (CZE)
Photo: NordicFocus
Men's pursuit
Photo: NordicFocus

Many surprises in Cross-Country Skiing

The FIS Nordic World Ski Championships at Sapporo, the first to be held in Asia (as a separate event outside of the Olympic Games that were held in the same city in 1972), are now two thirds of the way to being completed. After a spectacular beginning at the Sapporo Dome watched by 30'000 spectators, the competitions have continued at the more traditional venues: the Shirahatayama Cross-Country Skiing stadium and the Okurayama Ski Jumping hill. After 12 of the 18 events, Norway leads the medals table with ten medals, ahead of Finland with five and Germany with six. Overall, 12 nations have won medals, eight of them gold.

On the opening day, Norway dominated the individual sprint competitions staged at the Sapporo Dome. While 20-year-old Astrid Jacobsen overtook˙Petra Majdic (SLO) on the home stretch to win the ladies race, Jens Arne Svartedal grabbed the gold in the men's competition. Majdic's silver medal was Slovenia's first Cross-Country medal ever in the FIS World Ski Championships. Japan's Madoka Natsumi succeeded in reaching the final for the first time in her career, finishing in a highly creditable 5th place.

In the men's team sprint Cristian Zorzi edged Vassili Rotchev (RUS) in a photo finish to claim the gold with teammate Renato Pasini for Italy. In the ladies' event, World Cup leader Virpi Kuitunen and Riitta Liisa Roponen of Finland took the honors; for Kuitunen it was her second medal in Sapporo following a bronze in the individual sprint race.

On Saturday, Axel Teichmann (GER) beat compatriot Tobias Angerer on the finishing straight to win the men's pursuit race. Teichmann already won gold in Val di Fiemme four years ago. In the ladies' pursuit, 34-year-old Olga Savialova (RUS) also triumphed after a four-year-pause since she won gold in the 30km-race at the 2003 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships.

Defending 2005 champion, 34-year-old Katerina Neumannova (CZE) repeated her victory in the ladies' individual start race over 10km in the free technique on Tuesday. After the gold in Torino and her first title in Oberstdorf, the second World Championship gold will make a nice addition to her trophy case as she plans to retire after this season. Her gold was the Czech Republic's third medal in Sapporo. In the men's 15km race, Lars Berger (NOR), better known as a first-class biathlete, took a surprise victory after benefiting from an early start number during stark snowfall in the middle of the race. An even bigger surprise was the silver medalist, 19-year-old Leanid Karneyenka of Belarus who considered the Junior World Ski Championships in Tarvisio (ITA) as his main season goal. An incredible performance, especially in the final kilometers, ensured a well-deserved bronze medal to Tobias Angerer.


Simon Ammann (SUI)
Photo: NordicFocus
Team Austria
Photo: NordicFocus

Ammann and Austria take Ski Jumping gold

Switzerland's Simon Ammann, double Olympic gold medalist in 2002, won the large hill event on Saturday. Ammann led after the first jump but edged Harri Olli (FIN) by just two tenths of a point for the gold. Olli jumped farther than Ammann over his two jumps but the Swiss had better style points and captured the title.

In the team event on Sunday, Austria relied on a solid team effort to win ahead of Norway and Japan. The team consisting of double Olympic champion Thomas Morgenstern and rising star Gregor Schlierenzauer together with Andreas Kofler and Wolfgang Loitzi easily defended their 2005 title, winning by 46.9 points. However the bronze medal for Japan brought the stadium alight as the Japanese fans cheered their team long into the night after they captured a somewhat surprise third place and their first medal at a major event since 2003, leaving Finland, Russia and Slovenia trailing.


Sprint in the Dome
Photo: NordicFocus
Team Finland
Photo: NordicFocus

Finnish domination in Nordic Combined

In the Nordic Combined sprint competition, Finland's Hannu Manninen finally won an individual gold medal after he surged from the ninth place after the ski jumping competition to sprint to the finish ahead of Magnus Moan (NOR). Manninen has won three consecutive World Cup titles and leads the Nordic combined standings this year, but had never previously won an individual gold medal at a title event.

In the team event, Manninen took his second gold, anchoring Finland to the title ahead of Germany while Norway sprinted to bronze ahead of Austria. Team Finland had led already after the jumping competition.

Yoshiro Ito, FIS Vice-President, Vice-President of the Organizing Committee and President of the Japanese Ski Association is very satisfied from the perspective of all of his capacities "The organization appears to operating effectively and the degree of satisfaction amongst the participants as well as the locals is very high. We are particularly pleased that the Ski Jumping team could win a bronze medal which has caused great excitement."


5 days to go: Madonna 2007
Madonna di Campiglio (ITA)

There are now just 5 days until the start of the 11th FIS Freestyle World Ski Championships that will be held in Madonna di Campiglio, Trentino (ITA) from 5th-10th March. The Opening Ceremony will take place on Monday 5th March as of 21:00 CET on the frozen lake of Madonna di Campiglio with FIS Council Member Janez Kocijancic officially opening the Championships whilst FIS President Gian Franco Kasper will be with the IOC Coordination Commission in Vancouver (CAN).

Despite great efforts by the organizing committee, the half-pipe competitions for the ladies and men had to be cancelled. There is snow in Madonna di Campiglio and as many as 30,000 cubic meters of artificial snow have been made. Unfortunately there was not enough snow to build the required half-pipe structure. The rest of the competition program is unchanged. 224 athletes representing 27 nations have been registered to compete as the title competitions will begin with ski cross on Tuesday, March 6th, followed by moguls on Friday 9th, and dual moguls and aerials on Saturday 10th.

Madonna di Campiglio is getting ready for a week of exciting show and spectacular entertainment. The famous 3-Tre slope where the ski cross competitions will be held has been closed for public as of Monday this week for final preparations. The aerials and moguls events will be held on the Canalone Miramonti, a slope famous for legendary FIS Alpine World Cup events.


FIS World Cups in action on three continents
Michaela Kirchgasser (AUT)
Photo: Agence Zoom
Erik Guay (CAN) and Andrej Jerman (SLO)
Photo: Agence Zoom

Alpine World Cup resumes after re

The ladies' Audi FIS Alpine World Cup circuit returned to Sierra Nevada (SPA) for the first time since the 1999 season finals. In Saturday's giant slalom, 21-year-old Michaela Kirchgasser (AUT), 2003 world junior slalom champion, won a highly technical giant slalom for her first World Cup victory. Kirchgasser moved up from third after the first leg on the steep Fuente del Tesoro course that starts out with a gradient of 54 percent, levels out and then drops off sharply again before the finish. Nicole Hosp (AUT), giant slalom World Champion in Are, increased her lead atop the giant slalom standings by finishing 2nd.

On Sunday, Marlies Schild won the slalom to take the World Cup slalom title with two races to spare. The Austrian also moved into the lead in the overall standings, with a 33-point edge over teammates Renate Goetschl and Hosp. Schild has won six of the seven slaloms held so far this season; the only slalom races she did not win this season came in the World Cup in Semmering (AUT) and the World Championships. Finishing 2nd was the season best result for Tanja Poutiainen (FIN) while Veronika Zuzulova matched her career best by ranking 3rd, the best-ever results for Slovakia.

In the men's Audi FIS Alpine World Cup at Garmisch-Partenkirchen (GER), Andrej Jerman gave Slovenia its first World Cup downhill win Friday, mastering the difficult, 3,455-meter long Kandahar course in challenging, warm and soft conditions. The win was also the first World Cup podium for the 28-year-old Slovenian in a race that replaced a downhill from Kitzbhel (AUT). On Saturday, after a freezing night, another first-timer Erik Guay (CAN) won the second downhill for his first World Cup victory. Behind Guay, Jerman took his second podium ahead of Didier Cuche (SUI) who stretched his lead in World Cup downhill standings. Not only did the Canadian team boast the race winner but had a fine showing, with three racers in the top ten.

In Sunday's slalom, World Champion Mario Matt (AUT) took his seventh World Cup victory; he has now finished in the top three in his last six slalom races. Germany's Felix Neureuther withstood the pressure in front of 15'000 home fans on the Gudiberg hill where his father Christian was the last German to win a World Cup slalom 33 years ago. It was the first time Garmisch has hosted a World Cup slalom in 12 years. Aksel Lund Svindal maintained the lead in the World Cup overall standings while Benjamin Raich (AUT) who finished 3rd in slalom moved to 2nd place, with Didier Cuche in 3rd.


Kalle Leinonen (FIN)
Photo: Mike Ridewood
Aerials FIS World Cup podium
Photo: Mike Ridewood

Freestyle in Canada, Snowboard in Korea

In the Freestyle FIS World Cup held in Apex (CAN) last Friday, Kalle Leinonen of Finland won the season's first and only men's half pipe event, due to the difficult snow conditions in many sites. For last year's FIS World Cup champion, it was his third World Cup victory in three career appearances. Antti-Jussi Kemppainen (FIN) took 2nd, while Josh Bibby (CAN) emerged with a 3rd place finish. The winner of the ladies' half pipe was Jessica Cumming (USA) ahead of Davina Williams (AUS). Following a broken season, half-pipers were to compete at the FIS World Championships next month, but conditions have forced cancellation of the competition.

In the Apex moguls competition on Saturday, Team Canada emerged with four of the six podium places. Led by Olympic and defending World Cup champion Jennifer Heil, who captured her fourth straight World Cup victory, three other Canadians made the podium: Kristi Richards in 3rd in the ladies' competition and Alex Bilodeau in 2nd and Maxime Gingras, for his first-ever World Cup podium, in 3rd place in the men's competition. Heil now leads ahead of Shannon Bahrke (USA) in the moguls World Cup standings. Dale Begg-Smith of Australia, also 2006 Olympic champion, clinched the men's victory at Apex. With the win, Begg-Smith is close to clinching his second straight World Cup moguls title as he leads the World Cup standings ahead of Guilbault Colas (FRA) who was 4th at Apex. There are still two more competitions scheduled next weekend at Voss (NOR).

In aerials, the battle for the 2007 men's title came down to who would have a better day, Steve Omischl (CAN) or Jeret Peterson (USA), at the season's last event at Apex (CAN). Before Sunday, Peterson led the standings with 308 points, two points ahead of Omischl. Despite Peterson rebounding after a poor first jump to land his signature, five-twist "Hurricane" in the second round, Omischl - defending aerials FIS World Champion - went on to win the final and the World Cup crystal globe. For him, it was the second World Cup title after 2004; he was 2nd in 2005. The winner of the ladies' aerials final as well as of the World Cup title is Jacqui Cooper of Australia. Overcoming some serious injuries in recent seasons, she clinched her fourth World Cup aerials champion title. With her win at Apex, Cooper also became the greatest winner in the history of women's aerial skiing with 18 victories. In the final standings, Nina Li of China, defending World Champion, was 2nd with Torino gold medallist Evelyne Leu (SUI) in 3rd place.

In Sungwoo (KOR), Doresia Krings (AUT) and Jasey Jay Anderson (CAN) won the second-to-last parallel giant slalom in the NOKIA Snowboard FIS World Cup held last weekend. With her second season victory, Krings also reclaimed the lead in parallel World Cup from teammate Heidi Neururer. For Anderson, it was the first time on the top of the podium this season. With just the final event remaining in Stoneham (CAN), Simon Schoch (SUI) already confirmed his win of the parallel World Cup, despite finishing 23rd and missing the finals for the first time this season.

In Sungwoo's half-pipe contest, the fourth in this year's Cup, Paulina Ligocka of Poland and Jeff Batchelor of Canada took the top spots. For 18-year-old Batchelor, it was his first win, and the first podium place in his career. With four more competitions on the schedule, Ligocka caught up to World Cup leading Holly Crawford (AUS) who finished 5th in Korea.


Young Alpine Skiing talents to meet in Flachau/Altenmarkt/Zauchensee

It is time for the season highlight for the young Alpine Skiing talents: The FIS Alpine Junior World Ski Championships 2007 will take place in Flachau and Altenmarkt/Zauchensee (AUT) from 4th - 11th March. While the speed events will be staged on the World Cup course "K„lberloch" in Zauchensee, the technical events will be held on the "Hermann Maier World Cup course" in Flachau.

The official opening ceremony will take place on Sunday 4th March on the Market Square in Altenmarkt. The first title competitions will take place on Wednesday 7th March with both the ladies' and men's downhill races. The men's super-G is scheduled for Thursday and the ladies will hit the speed slopes again on Friday. In Flachau, the first race will be the ladies' giant slalom on Thursday 8th March, followed by the men's on Friday. Both slaloms will take place on the weekend, the men's on Saturday and the ladies' on Sunday.

Last Sunday was the official deadline for the teams to register their participation in the Championships. 40 nations will be sending their teams, and the participating athletes will include several with World Cup experience. They include Victoria Rebensburg and Susanne Riesch of Germany, Marcus Sandell and Sanni Leinonen of Finland, Tina Weirather of Lichtenstein, just to mention a few.

Although Flachau and Zauchensee have hosted numerous large events together in the past several years, including the FIS European Cup finals in 2006 and the legendary FIS World Cup finals in 2002, this will be the first time that they are together hosting FIS World Ski Championships. Zauchensee served as host for the Freestyle FIS World Ski Championships in 1993. For more information, click here.˙˙


FIS continues fight against doping - Anti-doping program at Sapporo 2007

The FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Sapporo involve one of the largest anti-doping programs of any international major sports events outside of the Olympic Winter Games. In Sapporo (JPN), the program includes both pre-competition and post-competition controls, as well as prior to the event, an out-of-competition testing program. A full-field pre-competition blood testing of all Cross-Country and Nordic Combined competitors included approximately 450 tests. For all events in the three Nordic disciplines, the number of athletes subject to post-competition doping controls includes the top 4 plus 2 at random, as per FIS Rules. In total, approximately 108 post-competition controls will be carried out during the championships.

In total, FIS's investment in the 2006/07 anti-doping program amounts to more than 1 million Swiss Francs. In addition to testing, various preventive measures are also part of the FIS anti-doping program such as educational and informational programs. A central element to the FIS testing program is specific target testing. Based on long-term, structured efforts, FIS is increasingly in a position to conduct such targeted testing. "In our experience, recording high numbers of conducted tests does not necessarily translate into more success in finding athletes who are doping. By contrast, effective testing is a question of using intelligent information to conduct testing at the right time and place," comments Sarah Lewis, FIS Secretary General. Recent experience by other anti-doping organizations supports this view as WADA's out-of-competition testing program has resulted in an increased number of adverse analytical findings as a consequence of more focused testing. For more, see FIS Media Info on this topic here.


New on the FIS Web Site: Alpine Ski Brand Rankings

Which skis are the fastest in downhill? Which ones are the best in the World Cup in slalom? Is it the same brands for the ladies and men? Answers to these questions can now be found on the FIS web site in the Alpine Ski Brand Ranking. Automatically updated after each competition, the Brand Ranking displays the best ski brands in Alpine Skiing based on the number of World Cup points their athletes have won by ranking in the top six in any FIS Alpine World Cup race this season. There are separate rankings for each event and for the overall, and for the current as well as last season. A similar ranking for the Nordic disciplines is in the works. To view the current Brand Ranking, please click here .


 In Depth 

Three questions to John Aalberg
John Aalberg (USA)

This week we feature an interview with John Aalberg (USA), a multi-faceted Cross-Country Skiing professional and˙former athlete. Presently he is responsible for the Nordic events at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, having previously performed the same function in Salt Lake City in 2002.

FIS Newsflash: You are Technical Delegate for the Cross-Country events at the FIS Nordic World Ski Championship in Sapporo. How are the competitions going from your perspective and what is different there from the other events you've experienced?

John Aalberg: The first competition days here in Sapporo have been very exiting, for athletes, media and also for the FIS Jury and the organizer. We've had challenging weather conditions (changing rapidly between snow, wind, sun and rain), technical competition courses, and dramatic crashes during the competitions. The technical preparations for the Championships have steadily improved during the last two years, and even though the organizers have not held many large international Cross-Country events during the last decade, the standard of service, including the facilities, transportation, accommodation and so on, offered to the competing teams is excellent. Due to more limited English skills here in Japan, however, the work load is considerably higher for the Technical Delegate and the Jury.

The competition courses here at the Shirahatayama Stadium and the Sapporo Dome are very challenging, perhaps more so than at the last few World Ski Championships and Olympic Games. It has been and will be interesting to see how this impacts the teams' and racers' tactics during the competitions.

FIS Newsflash: You have a lot of experience with major Cross-Country events, from having competed yourself, to having organized the Soldier Hollow events at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games and being on the jury last year in Turin, just to mention some highlights. How have such major events developed over the years in your view?

John Aalberg: Many of us have been through the dramatic changes in our sport in the last 6 - 8 years. The expansion of Cross-Country into sprint and mass-start formats has created new challenges for both athletes and event organizers. The pressure of providing perfect competition conditions has increased due to the demands of group skiing (as in mass-start), and the importance of this for the sprinters that are separated by 1/100 of a second sometimes.

The world has also changed in terms of what the media and spectators want. Society today seems to want more and more immediate entertainment and `action,' and having realized this, FIS is implementing changes to the events. We need to accept this if the sport wants to survive and to be supported by sponsors, media and TV viewers in a global sense.

This reality will also soon require FIS and organizers to become even more professional in terms of media/TV services and in terms of standardization of safe, fair and suitable competition stadiums and courses.

FIS Newsflash: You are Director, Nordic Sports at VANOC 2010. How are your preparations progressing now that the Games are three years away?

John Aalberg: We are designing and building a brand new 2010 Nordic Olympic Competition Venue just outside North-America's largest alpine resort, Whistler. This `Nordic Competition Park' will consist of three stadiums separated by about 400 meters (Ski Jumping, Cross-Country and Biathlon). It will have about 15 km of competition courses, as well as about another 25-30 km of easier ski trails (for recreational skiing). The two ski jumps are HS 106 and HS 140, and the biathlon range has the standard 30-lane fully electronic target system. About 80% of the competition courses were built last year, and construction for all the affiliated event management buildings started. The plan is to complete all the Olympic competition facilities by this fall, such that we can start organizing test events already next winter.

At the Olympic headquarters in the city of Vancouver (about 1:30 hrs away), the 2010 Olympic Organizing Committee already has a full-time staff of 320 persons working on all the logistical planning elements as well as all the other snow and ice sport venues.