News from the World of Skiing 

  Retiring stars ... more

  Verbier 2007: From Speed Skiing FIS World Cup finals to the World Championships ... more

  Snowboard Junior Worlds underway in Bad Gastein ... more

  Solid season in Nordic Combined World "B" ... more

 Council's Corner 

  Q&A with Milan Jirasek ... more

 Inside FIS 

  re organizers share their lessons learned in Official Debrief ... more

 Member News 

  The end of an era: Destruction of the Old Lady ... more

 In Depth 

  Season Review Nordics ... more

 News from the World of Skiing 

Retiring stars
Katerina Neumannova (CZE)
Photo: NordicFocus
Felix Gottwald (AUT)

After three seasons with title events, and with two or three years to go before the next FIS World Championships or Olympic Winter Games, respectively, some well-known athletes in the skiing circuit are putting an end to their careers. The retiring stars include a few that have played a key role in defining the sport of skiing in the past years.

In Cross-Country, the best-known retirees include Katerina Neumannova (CZE), six-time Olympic medalist including gold in Turin in 2006, and five-time medalist (two-time Champion) at the FIS World Championships; and Frode Estil (NOR), a World and Olympic Champion and many-time medalist, who is going to be putting his know-how to use as coach for young Norwegian talents. Also retiring are Viola Bauer (GER), bronze medalist in the pursuit in Salt Lake City Olympics and winner of many team medals, Mikhail Botvinov (AUT), another many-time medalist at title events, and Milla Saari (FIN), who made a come-back to the Finnish national team in Sapporo. Contrary to earlier indications, 34-year-old Olga Savialova (RUS) has decided to continue her career and the Russian team is expected to be further strengthened by the return of Julia Tchepalova from maternity leave.

In Ski Jumping, many athletes are taking their time this spring to reflect on their future, including the great Ski Flying champion and many-time medalist Roar Ljoekelsoey (NOR). The list of expected retirees includes Tommy Ingebrigtsen (NOR), Alan Alborn (USA) and Robert Mateja (POL). The veteran champions Adam Malysz (POL) and Janne Ahonen (FIN) have officially announced that they will return next season.

The Nordic Combined star of the Torino Olympics, Felix Gottwald (AUT) is moving on, leaving a legacy that will be hard for any of his countrymen to beat. The other Nordic Combined athletes that have decided to step back from top level competition include Andreas Hurschler, Ivan Rieder and Lucas Vonlanthen (all SUI), Nicolas Bal (FRA), and Tampet Pikkor (EST).

One of the most successful Alpine skiers in history, Kjetil Andre Aamodt (NOR) announced his retirement in early January while Fritz Strobl (AUT),Thomas Grandi (CAN), Petra Haltmayr (GER) and Kirsten Clark (USA) waited until the end of the season to make it official. Following the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in her home country, Anna Ottoson (SWE) has also decided to draw the curtain on her career, crowned by the giant slalom bronze medal in Turin.

Some well-known Freestyle skiers have also decided to focus on things other than sport. They include Ales Valenta (CZE), aerials gold medalist in Salt Lake City in 2002, Mikko Ronkainen (FIN), two-time World Champion and 2006 Olympic silver medalist in moguls, and Jeff Bean (CAN), the 2005 silver medalist in aerials. Several Snowboard athletes are said to be waging their options and are expected to announce their decisions in the course of the spring and early summer months.


Verbier 2007: From Speed Skiing FIS World Cup finals to the World Championships
Ladies' World Cup winners

The cradle of the Kilometro Lanciato - Cervinia (ITA) - was the site for this year's FIS Speed Skiing World Cup finals. After seven earlier races, 54 racers competed on 1st -2nd April, with the top three men starting the event less than 2% apart in the world cup standings, and the top two ladies also in a situation where a position either way would deliver the crystal globe.

On a beautifully prepared piste, and in perfect weather - bright sunshine and no side wind - the competition finally delivered victory to the home team, and Simone Origone (ITA) for a 3rd time. Simone's younger brother Ivan came 2nd overall, and was the fastest junior racer, with the former World Champion, Philippe May (SUI) tying for points, but placed 3rd on the basis of fewer wins during the season. In the ladies event, Tracie Max Sachs (USA) won for a record 5th time, with Anna-Karin Modin (SWE) in 2nd place, and Sanna Tidstrand (SWE) coming 3rd.

Attention is now focused on the forthcoming FIS Speed Skiing World Championships, to be held for the first time on the Mont Fort piste in Verbier-Nendaz (SUI) from 16th-19th April 2007, as part of a week celebrating Speed Skiing nationally and internationally. With over 150 competitors due to attend from nearly 20 nations, all eyes will again be on Philippe May, as both organizer and competitor. This promises to be the most exciting event yet - and well worth a visit - see you there! For more information, visit here.

Contributed by Dick Taplin


Snowboard Junior Worlds underway in Bad Gastein

The 11th FIS Snowboard Junior World Championships are in progress in Bad Gastein (AUT) this week. Enjoying excellent spring snow conditions and superb weather, almost 300 of the world's best young boarders born between 1987-1991 are competing in the Gastein Valley, just an hour from Salzburg. The competitions began today Wednesday with the snowboardcross races for the ladies and men. The first two titles both went to Norway as Helene Olafsen, bronze medalist in the FIS Snowboard World Championships in Arosa (SUI) in January, took the ladies' title and Steffen Sivertsen the men's.

"Today's race was excellent, perfectly organized and held in beautiful weather," commented Marcel Looze, FIS Race Director Snowboard. "We can already look forward to more great boarding action as the competitions continue with parallel giant slalom tomorrow and both big air and parallel slalom events on Friday."


Solid season in Nordic Combined World "B"
Overall podium
Nations' Cup winner

"Despite the warm winter with little snow we can be quite satisfied about our season," said Sabine Meinel, Coordinator of the FIS World Cup "B" for Nordic Combined. "Our special thanks go to the extreme efforts made by the organizers to deliver the races, especially in Lake Placid (USA), Klingenthal/Oberhof (GER) and Chaux Neuve (FRA), and for the willingness of Stryn (NOR) and Kuusamo (FIN) to organize replacement competitions."

With the introduction of video jump length measurement for Ski Jumping and the use of transponders in Cross-Country, the overall quality of the series has increased significantly. In total, 17 of the planned 20 competitions were staged at eight venues. 179 athletes representing 16 nations participated, 108 of them scoring World Cup "B" points. 11 individual athletes from three nations went home with a victory. The World Cup "B" winner's title went to Einar Uvlokk of Norway (with three wins, a 2nd and 3rd place), ahead of Steffen Tepel (GER) and Mikko Kokslien (NOR). These three, along with Christian Beetz (GER) will start as of the beginning of next season in the World Cup "A", the Warsteiner FIS World Cup Nordic Combined. Kokslien claimed the World Cup "B" title in the sprint rankings ahead of Tepel and Marko Khne (GER). Team Germany took the victory in the Nations' Cup in a dominant manner with a margin of 1141 points ahead of Norway that beat Austria by 33 points.

To get a feel of the season in action, view a video filmed by Chris Pironi of the hurricane start at a World Cup "B" sprint race at Soldier Hollow, Park City (USA) here.


 Council's Corner 

Q&A with Milan Jirasek (CZE)
Milan Jirasek (CZE)

This week we feature some questions and answers with FIS Council Member Milan Jirasek (CZE).

Q. You have taken a particular interested in FIS Junior World Ski Championships and have represented the Council at several of them. How would you say that they have developed over the years and how significant are they for FIS?

A. I have been keeping an eye on the FIS Junior World Ski Championships since their beginning. I even watched the European edition as their forerunner. The sports, organizational and social standards for the event are constantly getting higher. Especially in the last few years, they have become a big event which means great motivation for the participating athletes and their future careers. We have to be aware that for FIS, the Junior World Ski Championships represent an important investment in the future. I am personally interested in the development of the athletes throughout their careers and on how long it takes them to become part of the world elite.

Q. As in many other European countries, this winter has been extremely difficult in the Czech Republic, with very little snow and many cancellations. What does this mean to Czech skiing?

A. The skiing conditions have really been very adverse in the Czech Republic this winter. Next to the cancellation of the World Cups, it was very difficult to carry out the national competitions as well. Huge investments in the winter resorts could not have brought the expected profits. I am also afraid that the poor conditions made children switch to other sports, which we might come to see in the future. I hope that this winter's extreme weather vagaries were an exception and will not appear again in the near future.

Q. The next FIS Nordic World Ski Championships will be held in Liberec in 2009, the first in your country since 1970. How is the work advancing there in your view and what do you expect from the event?

A. Liberec has waited for the World Championships for years. The enthusiasm and working approach of the young Organizing Committee shows that. I do not dare to evaluate if everything is progressing according to the plan. So far, the Organizing Committee has received the best marks from the FIS Coordination Group (comprised of members from FIS, the European Broadcasting Union as television rights holders and their marketing partner APF) that supervises and supports the preparations. The World Championships in Liberec in 2009 is of cardinal importance for the development of skiing in the Czech Republic. They will promote skiing among our public and especially among our youth. Building and improving the necessary sport and general infrastructure is also considerable. I trust that the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in my country will be up to a high standard in all respects.


 Inside FIS 

re organizers share their lessons learned in Official Debrief

More than 35 participants attended the Official Debrief of the FIS Alpine Word Ski Championships 2007 in re held in Val d'Isere (FRA) on Wednesday, including representatives of the re 2007 organizing committee, FIS, television and marketing partners EBU and APF, and organizers of the upcoming FIS championships in Val d'Isere 2009 and Garmisch-Partenkirchen 2011. A team from re 2007 AB, consisting of Lasse Lindqvist, CEO, Anders Sundqvist, Sports Director, Titti Rodling, PR & Media Director and Niklas Carlsson, Event Manager, led a comprehensive and frank analysis of all the critical areas of event organization. Detailing their key success factors and several recommendations, the team elaborated provided excellent feedback as well as actionable ideas for the future organizers of FIS Alpine World Ski Championships. A very informative session undoubtedly worth a traditional Swedisch clap!

Following the re debrief, the Val d'Isere meeting continues with meetings of the Coordination Group, and its various working groups, for the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships 2009 in Val d'Isere. The discussions involve the progress of preparations, including all areas of event organization, including the sports program.


 Member News 

The end of an era: Destruction of the Old Lady
The "Old Lady" on the Gudiberg

The "Old Lady" of the Ski Jumping hills, the Olympic Jumping Hill located on the Gudiberg in Garmisch-Partenkirchen (GER) will be demolished on Saturday 14th April at 14:30 CET, preceded by a party beginning at 13:00 CET. Only 800 grams, divided into 28 rounds, of explosive will be needed to destroy the almost 57-year-old structure made of 125 tons of steel. The K-125 hill has hosted the traditional New Year's Ski Jumping competition as part of the Four-Hills-Tournament since 1951. The structures to be demolished include not only the hill with its inrun and jumping table but also the judges' tower right of the jump.

Preparation for the project has required more than 400 working hours. The explosive to be used is known as linear cutter, made of high-explosive hexogen. The goal is to make the tower and inrun fold together into a neat pile of dust, without damaging the surrounding structures such as the normal hill. Construction of the modern new jump will begin immediately afterwards so that it will be ready to welcome the competitors on 1st January 2008. The design for the new hill has been prepared by a team including several architect firms from Munich and the Allgu region.


 In Depth 

Season Review Nordics
Jrg Capol

FIS Race Directors for Nordic Skiing, Jrg Capol for Cross-Country Skiing, Walter Hofer for Ski Jumping, and Uli Wehling for Nordic Combined, shared some thoughts about the 2006/2007 season in their respective World Cups with the FIS Newsflash.

Jrg Capol: One of the most remarkable things this season was the creativity of many World Cup organizing committees. Faced with an adverse weather situation, many invested significant manpower and money to ensure that the races took place. In the end, we only lost two events due to a lack of snow and can be very content to have such reliable partners as organizers.

The two main changes for this season were the introduction of the Viessmann FIS Tour de Ski and the sprint with six competitors in each final round. While we can still improve organizationally, the inaugural edition of the Tour was a great first step. Interest from the media increased throughout the event and the many positive comments from the athletes and teams bode well for the future. The change in sprint rules served to alter the mentality of the event: since the racing time mattered, competition continued until the finish line in all qualifying heats, and in many cases, the two time-fastest `Lucky Losers' made it to the podium in the end. We also saw many distance skiers participating in the sprints as speed endurance made a difference. At the same time, we noticed that in the future we have to be even more careful with the selection of sprint courses so that the possibility for passing exists. Overall, both of these novelties helped bring us forward in our search for the most complete skier of the season and further away from specialization.

From a results point of view, we obviously had two dominators with extremely strong performances from the season's beginning until the end. In a season that involves this much travel - including a very successful return to Russia and the first distance races in China - it is natural to see some more individually-tailored racing schedules. Going forward, however, one of our main areas of focus will be building a calendar with clear highlights, especially in years without a title event. This could take the form of increasing the importance of the finals, for example. The first trial for changing skis during the competition held in Oslo (NOR) also went without problems and opens the door for more discussion.


Walter Hofer
Uli Wehling

Walter Hofer: We often have relatively large fluctuations during the season following the Olympic Winter Games. This year was no exception. We had eight athletes from seven nations taking World Cup victories while ten nations stood on the podium at least once. And, we are always pleased see new names amongst the winners, most notably Anders Jacobsen (NOR), Gregor Schlierenzauer (AUT) and Arttu Lappi (FIN).

In terms of the equipment, it became clear this season that the athletes have now become used to the new regulations. We saw significant technical development in the inrun and take off-phases of the jump where the athletes have become much more aggressive.

On the whole, this challenging season where we constantly fought with the elements showed us that all organizers must be prepared for all situations. There is no venue with guaranteed good weather any longer. Specific preparations are especially required for wind protection and the inrun track. For us at FIS, this means that we need to provide more support for the organizers with their technical preparations. This begins with site inspections in the summer and continues with the technical delegates who probably should arrive at the venue 2-3 days earlier than they have done in the past.

In the upcoming FIS Technical Committee meetings we will also be discussing some changes to the execution of our competitions, from the qualification to the final round. We seek to further optimize the length of the competition and the size of the field.

Uli Wehling: This season can be best characterized as a complicated one. Of the 21 planned events we were able to hold just 16 due to some challenging weather conditions which made it difficult to present our sport in the best light.

At the same time, we are quite pleased with the three events at the FIS World Ski Championships in Sapporo, all of which were staged at a very high level and contained great athletic performances. Additional positive news from this season includes the successful introduction of the compact sprint in Lahti (FIN), which turned out to be well-liked by all stakeholders. We learned that it is very feasible to stage a competition consisting of two very different disciplines within a short timeframe and to present the sport as one entity. Of course, Hannu Manninen's (FIN) fourth overall World Cup victory in a row was historic, no less because he finally captured an individual medal at a title event. The fact that the win in the World Cup sprint rankings did not go to the overall winner but to young Jason Lamy-Chappuis (FRA) also speaks to the broad field of strong athletes we saw this year. And, we should not forget to mention the return of USA to the podium through Bill Demong's excellent races at the end of the season. By and large, we are also satisfied with the balance of the different events on our schedule and with having held two team events for the first time in a long while.

Looking forward, we will have to discuss how we could further optimize the competition schedule and times together with our partners, including TV and organizers. Some of our goals should be to build more series of competitions and to find more opportunities for staging events together with Cross-Country Skiing and Ski Jumping. At our summer site inspections, we will be focusing on venue-specific improvements and in planning our TD education in the autumn, on the increasing requirements the changing climatic conditions place on the TDs in helping the organizers to deliver the competitions according to all rules and regulations.