News from the World of Skiing 

  Kuitunen (FIN) and Cologna half-time leaders of the Tour de Ski ... more

  The Four-Hills duel goes on: Ammann vs. Schlierenzauer ... more

  Exciting finish to World Cup year in Nordic Combined and Alpine Skiing ... more

  Final preparations underway for Moscow promotional parallel slalom ... more

  Svindal and Vonn top the year-end prize money rankings ... more

  The 7th ski cross World Cup season starts in St Johann (AUT) ... more


 Inside FIS 

  International Perspectives on Skiing: Part VIII ... more


 In Depth 

  One month to go: Val d'Isre 2009 ... more


 News from the World of Skiing 

Kuitunen (FIN) and Cologna half-time leaders of the Tour de Ski
Virpi Kuitunen (FIN)
Photo: NordicFocus
Dario Cologna (SUI)
Photo: NordicFocus

At the half-way point of the third edition of the Viessmann FIS Tour de Ski performance by Craft Sportswear, the red Tour leader's jerseys are worn by Virpi Kuitunen (FIN) and Dario Cologna (SUI).

After a slight disappointment in Stage Three, the city sprint in Prague (CZE) where she failed to qualify for the final heats, Virpi Kuitunen claimed back the overall lead in a true power performance in Stage Four, an individual start distance race in classical technique in Nove Mesto (CZE). So far, three different ladies have held the lead, Claudia Nystad (GER) who won the prologue inOberhof (GER)and Arianna Follis (ITA) who won the city sprint in Prague. Three more Stages remain - another free technique sprint in Nove Mesto, a mass start classical technique distance race in Val di Fiemme and the concluding climb to top of Alpe Cermis - and Kuitunen has only a 5.6 second lead over teammate and World Cup leader Aino Kaisa Saarinen with Marit Bjoergen equally well positioned just 23 seconds behind, so the excitement is really mounting.

On the men's side, Swiss Dario Cologna, the undisputed newcomer of the season, took 2nd in the prologue and has established a firm hold onto the leader position since Stage Two. His biggest challengers after Stage Four are Russian Vassili Rotchev and German Axel Teichmann, both just some 16 seconds behind. Teichmann has collected two Stage wins, at Stages One and Four, but failed to win any bonus seconds in the first sprint Stage. Eldar Roenning, the best Scandinavian, is also sitting in a good position in fourth, just 20 seconds behind Cologna.

For more information and daily news stories, make sure to visit www.tour-de-ski.com

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The Four-Hills duel goes on: Ammann vs. Schlierenzauer
Simon Ammann (SUI)
Photo: NordicFocus

The 57th Jack Wolfskin Four-Hills-Tournament began in outstanding conditions in Oberstdorf (GER) where Simon Ammann (SUI) underscored his ambitions for the Tournament victory. Besides being a World and Olympic champion, his expressed goal is to become one of the group of just seven jumpers so far that have collected all these titles, the so-called `Magic Seven'. In the first of the four Tournament competitions, Ammann took his fifth season victory by a margin of just 1.2 points over the eternal runner up Wolfgang Loitzl (AUT). Challenger Gregor Schlierenzauer (AUT), who was 4th in Oberstdorf just 6.3 points behind, shows no sign of letting Ammann take the title easily however, and the duel will continue in the traditional New Year's Day Ski Jumping in Garmisch-Partenkirchen (GER) where the two will face each other in the knock-out duel: with Schlierenzauer posting the best jump of the qualification and Ammann choosing to rely on his pre-qualification as the World Cup leader, the two will make up the last pairing.

The last two competitions in the Four-Hills-Tournament will take place in the New Year in Austria, with Innsbruck on 4th and Bischofshofen on 6th January 2009.

For more information and up-to-date coverage, visit www.fisskijumpingworldcup.com

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Exciting finish to World Cup year in Nordic Combined and Alpine Skiing
Oberhof Combined podium
Photo: NordicFocus
Christof Innerhofer (ITA)
Photo: Agence Zoom

The fifth event of the DKB FIS Nordic Combined World Cup in Oberhof (GER) brought great sport and close decisions. On Saturday, December 27th, Magnus Moan (NOR) won a nail-biting sprint finish just 0.3 seconds in front of Todd Lodwick (USA) and 0.4 seconds ahead of Anssi Koivuranta (FIN). One day later, Koivuranta achieved his third season World Cup victory, which was also his third career victory. Lodwick placed second. Koivuranta remains solidly on top of the overall World Cup ranking as Moan trails by 147 points.

In the middle of the attention, however, was the man who did not win any race in Oberhof. Todd Lodwick started his comeback from retirement only at the beginning of May, allegedly with the hardest training of his life. He won three out of four Continental Cups before joining the World Cup. In Germany, he held onto Moan's speed in the first race losing by a blink of the eye, and on Sunday again,he was conducted a tactically perfect cross-country race, losing it just on the last kilometer. And on the jumping hill, he showed impressive performances too.

In the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup, the ladies returned to the Viennese house mountain at Semmering (AUT) where some 30'000 people attended the final events in calendar year 2008. On Sunday, just like two years ago, Kathrin Zettel gave the crowd much to rejoice as she won her second giant slalom of the season. Italian Manuela Moelgg, who led after the first run, took second while rising Swiss young star Lara Gut rounded out the podium in third, up from first run 15th position thanks to a magnificent second run!

On Monday, Germany's Maria Riesch delivered another great slalom performance. Holding her lead from the first run, Riesch notched her second straight slalom win this season. She is now the leader in the slalom rankings. Finnish tech star Tanja Poutiainen took second and American World Cup overall leader Lindsey Vonn landed in third, further solidifying her position.

In the final event on the men's Italian tour, Bormio's Stelvio downhill, the host nation collected yet another dbutante downhill victory this season. After Werner Heel and Peter Fill, Christof Innerhofer took his maiden World Cup win ahead of two Austrians. Innerhofer was the first man on the course and had to wait a grueling 75 minutes in the finish before Bode Miller, one of the last men on the course, finished in fourth place. Innerhofer also became the first Italian winner on the Stelvio course where a World Cup downhill race has been staged since 1993.

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Final preparations underway for Moscow promotional parallel slalom
Ramp preparations in Moscow
Photo: Joe Fitzgerald

Most of the top slalom skiers on the men's Alpine World Cup circuit will be traveling to Moscow (RUS) for the first-ever promotional event for the FIS Alpine World Cup tour, a night slalom on the grounds of the Moscow University on Friday, 2nd January. The winner there is eyeing $30,000 first place prize money as well as a chance to race a unique knock-out city parallel slalom in front of more than 30,000 people.

The organizers are busy finalizing the event preparations. Moscow is currently in the midst of its warmest winter in history so artificial snow is being produced outside of the venue for the huge 56 meter high ramp.

The participating athletes feature Jean-Baptiste Grange, the slalom World Cup leader, Manfred Moelgg (ITA), last season's slalom World Cup champion, Mario Matt (AUT), the defending slalom world champion along with Aksel Lund Svindal, the current World Cup leader, Felix Neureuther (GER), Jens Byggmark (SWE), Didier Cuche (SUI) who is donating his $10'000 start money to charity, Americans Bode Miller and Ted Ligety, just to mention a few of the invited 16 racers.

For more information, visit the event web site at www.worldcupmoscow.com

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Svindal and Vonn top the year-end prize money rankings
Aksel Lund Svindal (NOR)
Photo: Agence Zoom
Lindsey Vonn (USA)
Photo: Agence Zoom

The current Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup leaders are also leading the year-end prize money rankings. Aksel Lund Svindal (NOR), who has 444 overall World Cup points, has also earned more than 112 000 Swiss francs in the competitions during the 2008/09 season held until now. On the ladies side, Lindsey Vonn (USA)leads the point rankings with 530 World Cup points which has brought her more than 126'000 in earnings. Closely on her heels in the prize money rankings is Finn Tanja Poutiainen, who was overtaken in the World Cup overall standings by Maria Riesch (GER), winner of the last Alpine event of the year, the ladies' slalom in Semmering (AUT).

In Alpine Skiing, the biggest single event prize money purse this season is featured at the upcoming VIP Snow Queen Trophy slaloms in Zagreb (CRO) where a total of Euro 165'000 will be paid out to the top 30 ladies and men each.

The largest overall prize money pot is featured by the Hahnenkamm races in Kitzbhel (AUT) where more than _ 550'000 will be distributed to the best athletes in the four competitions (downhill, super-G, slalom and Hahnenkamm combination). For the super-G, a total of _ 130'000 is awarded while in both the downhill and slalom _ 175'000 are available. The Hahnenkamm combination is rewarded with the amount of _ 70'000. The athletes in the top 30 of each race will be rewarded, with the exception of the combined where the top five will be remunerated.

In CHF
Men

1. Aksel Lund Svindal (NOR) 112 153
2. Benjamin Raich (AUT) 107 366
3. Jean-Baptiste Grange (FRA) 88 814
4. Daniel Albrecht (SUI) 89 828
5. Ivica Kostelic (CRO) 84 990
6. Carlo Janka (SUI) 59 631

Ladies
1. Lindsey Vonn (USA) 126 470
2. Tanja Poutiainen (FIN) 123 050
3. Maria Riesch (GER) 112500
4. Kathrin Zettel (AUT) 105 810
5. Nicole Hosp (AUT) 82 500
6. Anja Prson (SWE) 74 925

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The 7th ski cross World Cup season starts in St Johann (AUT)

On this coming Monday night, live on ORF and Eurosport, the 7th season of FIS Freestyle World Cup ski cross tour will kick off in St. Johann in Tirol (AUT). Over 120 skiers from at least 23 nations are now packing their gear and preparing their skis for the first competition of the season.

Over the next two weeks, from Monday, 5th January, until Sunday, 19th January, there will be four Freestyle FIS World Cup ski cross events held in three nations on two continents. Over half of the points in the ski cross World Cup are up for grabs in early January. These competitions will also be used to qualify for the 2009 Inawashiro FIS Freestyle World Championships and also as part of the qualification for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

Directly after St. Johann competitions the tour moves in quick succession. The second competition will be held in Les Contamines (FRA) on 10th January, and the third in near-by Flaine (FRA) on 14th January. The teams will then journey over the Atlantic to Lake Placid (USA), the host of the 1980 Olympic Winter Games and the 1991 FIS Freestyle World Championships. This will be the first ever ski cross World Cup held in the ski crazy part of eastern North America.

Several National Ski Associations have made significant investments in developing programs to create the new champions of this newest Olympic ski event. Can the veteran ski cross skiers of the past years maintain their top positions or will the flood of new talented younger skiers and cross-over alpine racers make their mark? The first 14 days in January will start to tell the story of this season and set a pattern for next year's Olympic debut.

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 Inside FIS 

International Perspectives on Skiing: Part VIII
Cape Town (RSA)

In the final part of the series, the last three video interviews are available to offer "International Perspectives on Skiing". Conducted at the 46th International Ski Congress in Cape Town (RSA), these interviews feature Rajinder Kumar Gup and Surendra Singh Pangtey from the Winter Games Federation of India and Alexander Heath, South African alpine skier, all of whom shared their thoughts on various aspects of our sport. Click here to view the videos.

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 In Depth 

One month to go: Val d'Isre 2009
2009 Dress rehearsal in December
Photo: OC Val d'Isere

In a month's time, from 2nd - 15th February, the highly anticipated 2009 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships will take place in the majestic setting of Val d'Isre (FRA). As one of the most experienced FIS World Cup sites - 151 events to date not to mention the organization of Alpine events during the Albertville Olympic Winter Games in 1992 - Val d'Isre is second to no-one in terms of having vast know-how and first-rate facilities for staging Alpine ski racing competitions at the highest level. While it is the first time that Val d'Isre will host the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, it is the fourth time that France is playing host to this flagship event. When the championships are opened by the FIS President Gian Franco Kasper on 2nd February 2009, it will have been 41 years since France with Grenoble carried out both the Olympic Winter Games and FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in 1968 and 47 years since Chamonix hosted the 17th FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in 1962.

There are no new competitions in the program this year. Both the super combined event and the qualification races for the men's technical events have established themselves on the program since their premiere in the 2007 Worlds in Are (SWE), whilst the Nations' Team Event will be staged for the third time.

"The attractiveness of the site of Val d'Isre as the host for the World Championships is also evidenced by the number of participating nations and athletes: we have received entries from a record of 72 nations (compared with 63 in Are) and 594 athletes," commented Jean Luc Fabre, Director General of the Val d'Isre organizing committee. "The main construction and preparation work has been finished, including safety installations on the pistes and building the new sports center and its associated parking garage which will serve the media during the event. We are currently in the process of installing the interior of the media center and the structures to be used by our sponsors, such as temporary infrastructure, all of which are running precisely on plan."

The 2009 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships will be held on the unique 'Face--Face' mountains, whereby the men's and ladies' competition runs lie directly opposite each other on the Solaise (piste Rhne-Alpes) and Face de Bellevarde slopes. Ninety percent of both runs can be seen from the finish, making the ski racing even more spectacular for spectators.

The entire village is preparing for the World Championships. A program of activities has been planned right down to the last detail at all times of day and for all ages. To raise spirits even more, all spectators will be greeted with a complimentary (and hot!) bowl of World Championship soup. Val d'Isre would like to welcome visitors to the World Championships with typical French hospitality.

For the first time in the history of the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, the organizers are inviting the public to attend free of charge. Entry to the whole ski area is free and accessible to all. At present, some 170'000 people have already requested their free invitation. Even the journey to Val d'Isre from the region is available for the nominal charge of 1 Euro, with trains from the surrounding airports bringing ski enthusiasts to Bourg-Saint-Maurice, where free shuttle buses will be available, providing transport to the ski area. This emphasis on public transport is just one of the ways to focus on the environment, another great concern for the organizers.

How to get there: Chambry airport is the closest airport to use for Val d'Isre at just over 2 hours away on a good day by motorway and mountain road. Next nearest is Geneva and Lyon St. Exupry (Satolas) each being 3 and 3 hours travel time respectively.

The reigning 2007 World Champions from Are (SWE)
Men
Downhill: Aksel Lund Svindal (NOR)
Super-G: Patrick Staudacher (ITA)
Giant slalom: Aksel Lund Svindal (NOR)
Slalom: Mario Matt (AUT)
Super Combined: Daniel Albrecht (SUI)

Ladies
Downhill: Anja Paerson (SWE)
Super-G: Anja Paerson (SWE)
Giant slalom: Nicole Hosp (AUT)
Slalom: Sarka Zahrobska (CZE)
Super Combined: Anja Paerson (SWE)

Team Event: Austria

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