|News from the World of Skiing|
|Lasse Kjus (NOR)|
|Karine Ruby (FRA)|
The end of an Olympiad is often not only marked by the Olympic Games but also by the retirement of many athletes who decide to bring down the curtain on their distinguished careers after the highlight event of the four years. This year is no exception. The retiring stars include many that have played a key role in defining the sport of skiing in the past years. There are the Cross-Country skiers, such as Beckie Scott (CAN), 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Champion who was elected to the IOC Athletes' Commission in Turin, Andreas Schltter (GER), Olympic silver medalist in Turin, Kristen Skjeldal (NOR), bronze medalist from Salt Lake City, Haavard Bjerkeli (NOR), 2003 Val di Fiemme silver medalist, Gabriella Paruzzi (ITA), another 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Champion, and Fulvio Valbusa (ITA), winner of two medals in the FIS World Ski Championships. In Ski Jumping, the retired heroes include Masahiko Harada, two-time Olympic medalist and two-time World Champion, and Hideharu Miyahira (both JPN), two-time medalist in the FIS World Ski Championships. In Nordic Combined, along with Todd Lodwick (USA) who gave his farewell at Holmenkollen, Kristian Hammer (NOR), bronze medalist last year in Oberstdorf, has announced his retirement.
The retirees in Alpine Skiing include many whose achievements are too numerous to list: Michaela Dorfmeister (AUT) is hanging up her skis after the best season in her career, and the same could be said for Daron Rahlves (USA). While Sonja Nef (SUI), Hilde Gerg (GER) and Christian Mayer (AUT) were forced to retire due to injuries, Martina Ertl-Renz's (GER) career ended with her record-breaking 428th World Cup race at the World Cup finals in re (SWE). Lasse Kjus (NOR) will be sorely missed in the Alpine skiing world, as will Carole Montillet-Carles (FRA) and Kristian Ghedina (ITA), all of whom have made a significant impact on the sport in the past ten years.
The FIS Snowboard circuit will be losing a real legend with the retirement of Karine Ruby (FRA), the winner of ten medals in FIS World Snowboard Championships and two-time Olympic medalist. The same goes for Freestyle Skiing, as Kari Traa (NOR), three-time Olympic medalist, and Jeremy Bloom (USA), three-time medalist in the FIS World Ski Championships will be moving on.
|Jakub Janda (CZE) & Janne Ahonen (FIN)|
In addition to setting a new World Cup total points record, Janica Kostelic (CRO) ended the season by setting a new record in terms of prize money. Kostelic netted CHF 561,646, which is considerably more than the former ladies' record held by Anja Prson (SWE), who earned CHF 507,312 in the 2003-04 season. The all-time record for season prize money, awarded since 1992-1993 season, is held by Hermann Maier (AUT) who brought home some CHF 660,000 in 1999-2000. Benjamin Raich (AUT), this year's #1 in the men's ranking, earned CHF 438,300.
Jakub Janda, the first Czech winner of the E-ON Ruhrgas World Cup Ski Jumping, can also be happy with his season's earnings of CHF 184,550 although that also applies to second-ranked Janne Ahonen (FIN) CHF 158,750 and his Finnish team mate Hannu Manninen, who won CHF 173,100 in the FIS World Cup Nordic Combined. In Cross-Country, the five-time season and overall World Cup winner Tobias Angerer (GER) made CHF 105,500 compared with Marit Bjoergen (NOR), who earned CHF 130,700 and Beckie Scott (CAN), who netted CHF 121,250.
|Overall winner Stefan Lussnig (AUT)|
The exceptional skiing conditions enjoyed across Europe this season also benefited the 2005-2006 FIS-CIT Arnold Lunn World Cup. Compared with 492 competitors from 35 nations in 2004-2005, there were 589 skiers from 39 nations scoring points in this year's series that included 74 races in all the four Alpine Skiing events for ladies and men. In fact, only four races had to be cancelled due to inclement weather. The FIS-CIT Arnold Lunn World Cup offers an international competition opportunity to citadin racers from both alpine and non-alpine countries - citadin racers are competitors who reside permanently at a location which is not a winter sports resort and which is not linked to a skiing area by an uphill transport facility. Staged between December 2005 and the finals in Madesimo (ITA) on 18th March, 2006, the Nations' Cup in the 2005-2006 FIS-CIT Arnold Lunn World Cup was won by Italy before France and last year's winner Austria. The ladies overall crown was taken by Ginevra da Rin of Italy while Stefan Lussnig (AUT) took home the men's overall World Cup. For more results and pictures, please visit http://www.fiscit.de/news.php.
Accompanying FIS President Gian-Franco Kasper, himself a member of the GAISF Council representing the international winter sports federations, the FIS participants in Seoul will include Sarah Lewis, FIS Secretary General, who will be participating in a breakout session entitled "How Host Cities Can Learn from One Another", and Christian Knauth, FIS Marketing and Communications Director, who will be part of a GAISF Media Workshop on Accreditation and Press. "SportAccord has developed into a key meeting for the sports world," said Sarah Lewis. "It is an ideal opportunity to exchange experiences and information with colleagues from other international federations, as well as meet with potential sponsors, service companies and look at interesting innovations. The conference sessions address relevant themes to many different sectors of the sports movement and the subject of the transfer of knowledge is a vital one which is of interest to everyone involved to develop and get it right."
Following the go-ahead from the FIS Finance Commission on March 21st, the FIS Tour de Ski is now moving onto the detailed planning phase. The hosting National Ski Associations and their organizing committees will come together with FIS to discuss next steps in Munich on 21st April, 2006.
Premiering as part of the Viessmann FIS World Cup Cross-Country from 29th December, 2006, to 7th January 2007, the FIS Tour de Ski will include eight international top sport events in ten days and be the first-ever FIS Cross-Country event that takes place at five venues in three countries. The Tour will begin with two Stages in Nove Mesto (CZE), move to Munich (GER) for a city sprint on New Year's Eve before stopping in Oberstdorf (GER) for another two Stages. The last three Stages of the first FIS Tour de Ski will take place in Italy, beginning with a sprint in Asiago followed by a mass start race in Val di Fiemme and as a culmination, a four-kilometer long Final Climb on the Alpe Cermis on top of which the Tour winners will be crowned on Sunday, January 7th, 2007.
With the season over, it is now time for an analysis. The FIS Newsflash had a chance to get initial observations from Jrg Capol, Walter Hofer and Uli Wehling, FIS Race Directors for Cross-Country Skiing, Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined.
FIS Newsflash: In your assessment, what was the 2005-2006 season like?
Jrg Capol: This year, we had a real winter again which made it a great season. Organizationally, we have moved forwards although new organizers always need some time to develop. Given the extensive World Cup calendar spread across three continents and the Olympic Winter Games at a high altitude, we had a challenging schedule and many individually-tailored competition programs. The season highlights included the skiing masses as part of the World Cup at Vasaloppet and the record number of nations on the podium. With the reduced national quotas, we had about 15% fewer athletes at start but also much compacter field and more individual winners.
Walter Hofer: The 2005-2006 season was surely one of the most successful seasons we've had in the history of the FIS World Cup Ski Jumping. The prerequisites for this success were set by the very favorable external conditions including the weather that cooperated with our competition calendar, and the new sporting rules that delivered the results we expected: Our goal is to stage exciting competitions and the new rules, such as the restrictions on the aerodynamics of the jumping suits, served this goal by increasing the focus on the athletic performance and away from the equipment. We no longer had the problem of extra-long jumps, the field was closer together and there was great fluctuation on the podium, including more than 10 individual winners. The reduction of the national quota from eight to six also helped bring more nations to the top.
Uli Wehling: With 21 individual competitions, this season was the most extensive season we have had since the beginning in 1983-84. Although we had some close calls for different reasons - from too little snow to too much - we were able to hold onto our schedule thanks to great cooperation among the organizers, officials and TV. Some of the season highlights include the positive feedback we received on the hurricane start and the progress we made in enhancing the presentation of our sport on TV, including the improved introduction of the athletes at the start and the presentation of the leaders in the jumping in mass start races. In addition, we are quite pleased with the increasing spectator numbers in key competitions including the Warsteiner Grand Prix Germany where we also had good experiences with evening side events such as official prize and public bib presentation ceremonies. And, having Jarkko Laine in the role of Assistant Race Director really helped create fair conditions for all the competitors which is something the teams greatly appreciated. Finally, it was great to see France back at the top of the podium for the first time since 1996.
FIS Newsflash: Where do you see the focus for your discipline going forward?
Jrg Capol: Looking forward, we need to continue to increase the organizational standards, probably in the form of a binding `World Cup Organizer Handbook'. We also have to review the competition calendar where it would seem that less will be more and that the needs of the athletes for training and recovery will have to take priority over national interests for staging competitions. The World Cup in new countries brings great publicity to our sport but it is likely that we need to limit the amount of travel to two continents per season. We also need to work on our TV broadcasting. We simply cannot afford to spread poor pictures of our sport and that is why the weaker players will need to accept external help so that we can guarantee consistently high quality TV production.
In terms of sporting rules, our goal is to deliver an attractive product to all our audiences. That is why we have to review the national quotas for the sprint and possibly consider creating special "combined" weekends with short distance races and sprints where the combined results of the two races also deliver World Cup points. With one national quota for the weekend, this would reduce traveling costs and increase the focus on the overall World Cup. I would also like to see six athletes in all the final rounds in a sprint. And I do not see why we could not use mass start in the short distance races. We have somewhat limited experience with mass start in the championships as it has only been in the program since 2002, but it is clear that the longer the race the more tactics play a role. It would seem that, providing the course allows it, we need to use the mass start in the short rather than the longest distance races.
Walter Hofer: For the next season, we do not see a need for change in the equipment area, excluding possible small changes in the control procedures, and overall, we are quite happy with the image of the FIS World Cup Ski Jumping. However, since we have more high quality organizers than available dates, our focus will be on developing a set of objective criteria for selecting World Cup organizers. We will also spend time on defining recommendations for standardizing TV production of the World Cup events, from specifying the sport processes to the details of the winner presentation. As usual, we will take advantage of our Summer Grand Prix to test the effects of any new sporting rules, such as a refined BMI-table for the relation between the length of the ski and body size. Finally, my focus during the summer site visits will be on supporting organizer development and, in particular, the development of Ski Jumping in nations with long traditions and some recent challenges, such as Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Belorussia. This work will include programs run through FIS Aid & Promotion and transfer of specific Ski Jumping know-how.
Uli Wehling: This summer, there will be probably only limited changes to the International Competition Rules and we have to see how the Congress decides on the two national initiatives on the inclusion of the mass start on the program of the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships and a rule change for the team event. But, we might also want to discuss limiting the national quotas while possibly rewarding the host nations with some additional starting places. For calendar planning, we will stick to our three period-format in order to create a balanced schedule, including filling the open weekend in December. In the future, we would like to see France, Switzerland, Russia and Estonia as World Cup organizers and want to continue our development work in nations such as Ukraine, Korea, China, Belorussia, Romania and Bulgaria. In the summer, of course, our focus will be on our Summer Grand Prix that includes five races in Central Europe in August.