News from the World of Skiing 

  Liberec 2009 marks a new milestone for FIS Nordic World Ski Championships ... more

  Freestyle Worlds commence in Inawashiro 2009 ... more

  Alpine Juniors in progress in Garmisch-Partenkirchen (GER) .... more

  Bansko and Sunday River debut in World Cup, Alpine men in Kranska Gora ... more

  Before Are Finals: The fight is on for the globes ... more

  Harbin Winter Universiade acclaimed as great success ... more


 Inside FIS 

  President Kasper heavily involved in IOC work ... more

  Schedule changes at Snowboard Junior Worlds ... more


 News from the World of Skiing 

Liberec 2009 marks a new milestone for FIS Nordic World Ski Championships
Aino Kaisa Saarinen
Photo: Agence Zoom
Petter Northug
Photo: Agence Zoom

The FIS Nordic World Ski Championships concluded in Liberec (CZE) on Sunday with the traditional men's 50km cross-country race, this time in free technique. After 20 title competitions, Norway won the medals standings with a total of 12 medals (5-4-3) ahead of the surprisingly strong USA that won six medals of which four were gold (4-1-1), and Finland, whose cross-country team resurged from a long depression to accumulate eight medals (3-0-5)..

The most successful female athlete at Liberec 2009 was Finn Aino Kaisa Saarinen who collected three gold medals and a bronze.. On the men's side her counterpart was Norwegian Petter Northug with three gold medals. Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) returned home with two gold medals along with a bronze whilst Ola Vigen Hattestad (NOR) underscored his reign in the men's sprint with two gold medals.

In Ski Jumping, Austria may not have won the expected individual medal on the large hill where Swiss Andreas Kttel triumphed, but thanks to the dominating performance by their team, Austria took a clear victory and Wolfgang Loitzl became the most decorated ski jumper of the event with two gold medals with teammate Gregor Schlierenzauer in tow with a gold and a silver.

In Nordic Combined, the gold medals were divided between the USA and Japan with the European favorites missing out: while Todd Lodwick won the mass start and normal hill Gundersen, teammate Bill Demong was best in large hill Gundersen and Team Japan took a surprise gold medal in the team event.

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Andreas Kttel (SUI)
Photo: Agence Zoom
Team Japan with NC gold
Photo: Agence Zoom

"We have experienced great championships here in Liberec," summarized Gian Franco Kasper, FIS President at Liberec 2009. "These FIS Nordic World Ski Championships mark a new milestone in the history of our championships. It is the first time that a nation without many of its own national favorites has organized such successful championships. On several days there were very significant numbers of spectators at the venues and altogether more than 170'000 saw the competitions on site. The evening medal ceremonies at the Liberec Medal Plaza, each night full with fans from around the world, were a truly emotional tribute to our best Nordic skiers. And this was achieved with continual snowfall for most of the championships making travelling conditions more difficult for the visitors. Despite the complicated weather conditions, we were able to carry out the competitions fully according to the International Competition Rules thanks to the great work by the organizing committee and the juries. Special recognition belongs to the Liberec 2009 teams at the two sports venues, Vesec for Cross-Country Skiing and Jested for Ski Jumping, who spared no effort in preparing the best possible conditions for the athletes to perform no matter what the weather was like. The host broadcaster, Czech TV, has also done an outstanding job in providing hundreds of hours of excellent coverage for the entire world."

"For FIS and the general development of the sport of skiing, it is important to have many different nations on the podium. With 15 achieving this feat at Liberec and given the new record of participating nations - 59 - we can be pleased that we are moving in the right direction for the Nordic disciplines," he noted.

For more comments on Liberec 2009 by President Kasper, click here.

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Freestyle Worlds commence in Inawashiro 2009
Ashleigh McIvor (CAN)
Photo: Agence Zoom
Ryan St. Onge (USA)
Photo: Agence Zoom

The FIS Freestyle World Championships 2009 are underway in Inawashiro (JPN). As a special feature, 2009 snowmen welcomed the athletes, officials and spectators to the event. The snowmen, made by the event supporters' group and local volunteers, surround the areas of Listel Ski Fantasia, the main administrative building at Kamerina Gymnasium and the local shopping district. Each snowman was built with care and feature different facial characteristics. Unfortunately, the snowmen are partially melting in the spring weather but let's hope they last throughout the championships.

The first title competition was the ladies' and men's ski cross event. Under deep blue skies, the third FIS World Championships competition in ski cross, and the last before the event's Olympic premiere in Vancouver next year, crowned two new world champions with Ashleigh McIvor of Canada and Andreas Matt of Austria. Ophelie David of France, the five-time ski cross World Cup champion and reigning 2007 world champion, was unable to defend her title, finishing 7th instead. McIvor was the last to qualify but went on to win her first major title. Returning from several injuries, Austria's Karin Huttary took the silver ahead of Meryl Boulangeat of France. In the men's competition, the World Cup leader and two-time world champion Tomas Kraus (CZE) finished 17th as Andreas Matt and Thomas Zangerl celebrated a double victory for Austria with Canada taking the next two spots through Davey Barr and Christopher Delbosco.

In the aerials events, Nina Li (China) and Ryan St. Onge (USA) claimed the titles. It was Li's third consecutive World Championship gold. Her 18-year-old teammate Mengtao Xu won the silver and the grand dame of aerials, 36-year-old Jacqui Cooper (AUS) claimed the bronze medal thanks to her second jump which scored the highest mark of the competition.. It was Cooper's third World Championships medal, following on from a bronze two years ago and gold ten years ago.

In the men's competition, St. Onge made a perfect landing and outstanding execution for his back double full-full-full (3 flips, 4 twists) which received the highest score in the competition to grab the gold ahead of first-run leader, three-time World Cup aerial champion Steve Omischl of Canada. His teammate, qualification winner Warren Shouldice secured the bronze medal on his return to competition after injury at the Mt Gabriel World Cup in January.

The championshops continue with half-pipe and moguls/dual moguals events the rest of the week. For more information, visit the event's home page here˙and do not miss the live & on-demand˙streaming coverage of all events here.

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Alpine Juniors in progress in Garmisch-Partenkirchen (GER)
Viktoria Rebensburg (GER)

The FIS Alpine Junior World Ski Championships opened in Garmisch-Partenkirchen (GER) on Sunday. During this week, 350 young alpine ski racers from 40 nations will be competing for medals in downhill, super-G, giant slalom, slalom and a combined event which is a tally of the results in GS, SL and DH. The first competition was the ladies' slalom on Sunday in which Denise Feierabend (SUI) beat reigning champion Bernadette Schild of Austria to snatch the title. The 19-year-old took 6th in slalom at the senior championships in Val d'IsŠre 2009 just two weeks ago. In the ladies giant slalom, Germany's Viktoria Rebensburg followed her 9th place finish from Val d'IsŠre by winning the junior title on home snow. Last year at the juniors in Formigal she won the silver medal in GS, her favorite event, along with a gold in super-G and a bronze in the downhill. Thanks to a fantastic first run, Rebensburg left runner-up Tina Weirather (LIE) 1.49 seconds behind. The race was held in difficult weather conditions with high temperatures and rain.

The men's downhill race had to be cancelled on Tuesday due to persisting fog on the race course and rescheduled for Wednesday which saw a full race program with the men's downhill followed by the ladies' and men's super-G races. The men's races finally got underway on Wednesday with the men's downhill. Italian Andy Plank followed in his father Herbert's footsteps in winning the gold medal. 37 years after the family's first triumph, Plank Jr. beat teammate Dominik Paris while Finland's Andreas Romer collected the bronze. It was the first ever speed medal for Finland in an Alpine title event.

In the ladies' super-G, Viktoria Rebensburg clinched her third gold medal at FIS Junior World Championships as she won in excellent weather and course conditions on the upper part of the `Kandahar' run. Rebensburg defended her 2008 title convincingly distancing the rest of the field by over a second. One of the favorites, Lara Gut of Switzerland was disqualified after missing a gate at the end of the course. In the men's super-G, the Austrians took a double victory led by Manuel Kramer ahead of Marcel Hirscher with Paris in third.

After five of the ten events, Germany leads the medals table thanks to the two gold medals by Rebensburg. Austria follows in 2nd place with six medals (1-3-2) while Italy has earned one of each color. The competitions continue

For more information, visit the event's home page here. Also make sure to check out the˙ coverage at www.fisalpineworldchampionships.com

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Bansko and Sunday River debut in World Cup, Alpine men in Kranska Gora
Fabienne Suter (SUI)
Photo: Agence Zoom
Ladies SBX final at Sunday River (USA)
Photo: Oliver Kraus/FIS

It was a great weekend for two young female Alpine stars at the first-time Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup venue of Bansko (BUL) as Fabienne Suter (SUI) and˙Lindsey˙Vonn (USA)˙amassed a combined five podium places: while Suter dominated the ultra turny course to record her career first downhill win ahead of Austrian super-G specialist Andrea Fischbacher, the dominator of both trainings. Vonn tied for third with Italian Nadia Fanchini. On Saturday in the second downhill, Fischbacher landed on the top step while Slovenian Tina Maze claimed second and Friday's winner, Suter settled for third. Despite finishing only 12th, Lindsey Vonn managed to clinch the World Cup downhill title with one more race to go at the Are World Cup finals. Picabo Street (1995-96) is the only other American to accomplish this achievement for two straight years. On Sunday, Vonn came back to win her fourth straight super-G race. On a trickily set course, Suter proved that she has the upper hand on the Bansko piste, taking second ahead of Maze in third.

In the men's Alpine World Cup at Kranjska Gora (SLO), the fight for the titles in both slalom and giant slalom visibly increased. The GS title defender Ted Ligety (USA)˙took his first season victory with Didier Cuche, the Sestriere winner, in 2nd. Benjamin Raich, the GS standings leader coming into the event, was fourth after the first run but dropped way back in the second run to finish 15th, giving Ligety and Cuche the chance they needed to increase the pressure. Raich held on to second place in the standings, but Cuche jumped to first and Ligety closed the gap considerably.

In Sunday's slalom, Frenchman Julien Lizeroux took his second World Cup victory after blistering the second run down the tricky Podkoren 3 hill ahead of Giuliano Razzoli of Italy. Since slalom leader Jean-Baptiste Grange finished in 29th place after hiking in the second run and watched his lead to shrink over Ivica Kostelic with one race remaining at Finals - reminiscent of last season. Reinfried Herbst, the hottest slalom skier of January and in a position to make a run at that globe, cut one too many corners and went out of the course early. He is now in 4th place in the slalom rankings behind teammate and slalom world champion Manfred Pranger.

Meanwhile, Sunday River (USA) staged its first ever LG Snowboard FIS World Cup competition last week. For Amelie Kober (GER) and Benjamin Karl (AUT) the North American tour continued as successfully as it had begun at Stoneham, Quebec: both clinched their first PGS back-to-back wins. Just like a week earlier, 21-year-old Kober relegated Tomoka Takeuchi (JPN) to second rank. On the men's side, reigning PSL world champion Karl crossed the finish line ahead of World Cup leader Siegfried Grabner.

In the seventh snowboard cross of the season, Maelle Ricker (CAN) and Graham Watanabe (USA) celebrated their first season victories. The Canadian beat reigning world champion Helene Olafsen (NOR) while Watanabe benefitted from an early collision of the other three contenders which opened the door for his career's third triumph. In third position, Ross Powers (USA) celebrated an outstanding comeback in his first ever SBX World Cup race. For the 1998 Olympic bronze medalist and 2002 Olympic champion in half-pipe it was the first World Cup event in four years and a major milestone on his way towards participation in the 2010 Games in Vancouver.

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Before Are Finals: The fight is on for the globes
Lindsey Vonn (USA)
Photo: Agence Zoom
Ivica Kostelic (CRO)

With the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup events this week in Ofterschwang (GER) and Kvitfjell (NOR) followed by the World Cup Finals on the 2007 World Championship courses in Are (SWE) next week, the season is entering the decisive phase. During the Are Finals alone, 400 points per gender and a grand total of CHF 900'000 in prize money will be awarded.

So far only the ladies' and men's super combined titles have been decided, with Anja P„rson (SWE) and Carlo Janka (SUI) emerging with the small globes, along with Lindsey Vonn (USA) clinching her second consecutive downhill title last weekend in Bansko (BUL). Maria Riesch (GER) still has at least a theoretical chance to steal the second overall globe from Vonn, since she trails by 391 points with another 600 points up for grabs in the remaining races. For the other titles, the fight is still on!

There are two nen's downhills scheduled in Kvitfjell, (one as replacement for Garmisch-Partenkirchen), along with another one in Are. Austrian Michael Walchhofer currently leads the rankings, 12 points ahead of Didier D‚fago (SUI) and 35 points ahead of teammate Klaus Kroell. Bode Miller, who is tied with Kroell, has decided to call it quits for the season. With two super-G races remaining, Hermann Maier's sixth SG title is not yet set in stone, since Aksel Lund Svindal (NOR) and D‚fago are just 19 and 21 points, respectively, behind. In giant slalom, Didier Cuche seems to be on fire, having now established a 52 point lead over Benni Raich (AUT) although defending champ Ted Ligety (USA) too still has a shot. And in the slalom rankings, Jean Baptiste Grange (FRA) has led all season but could still lose his title to Ivica Kostelic (CRO; 49 points behind) or Manfred Pranger (AUT; 92 points behind), which is what happened to him last season. But the tightest fight is for the men's overall title where the top five (Kostelic, Raich, Grange, Svindal & Cuche) are within just 110 points as 700 points remain to be distributed.

In the ladies super-G, Fabienne Suter (SUI) has a 15-point lead over Lindsey Vonn with Nadia Fanchini (ITA) also within reach, 40 points back. The ladies' GS rankings are the tightest of all as Kathrin Zettel (AUT) currently leads by a single point over Tanja Poutiainen (FIN) with two races to go. In slalom, Maria Riesch has a chance to secure her slalom globe this weekend in Ofterschwang since she already leads by 140 points over Vonn, although anything could still happen in the two remaining races.

The European Cup Finals in Alpine Skiing will be taking place in Crans Montana (SUI) simultaneously to the World Cup Finals in Are. And for the second season in a row, the 2009 LG Snowboard FIS World Cup Finals in big air will be staged in front of the State University in Moscow (RUS). Stefan Gimpl of Austria has already confirmed his third big air title and will receive his globe in front of an expected 25'000 spectators.

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Harbin Winter Universiade acclaimed as great success

The 24th Winter Universiade opened in full ‘grandeur’ on 18th February in Harbin (CHN) and closed on Saturday 28th February. 2,366 participants from 44 countries took part in the Games which included five ice disciplines (Speed Skating, Short-track Speed Skating, Figure Skating, Ice Hockey, and Curling) and seven snow disciplines (Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, Ski Jumping, Nordic Combined, Freestyle Skiing, Snowboarding and Biathlon) and featured 82 title events in total, a record for the Winter Universiade. The host country China led the medals table with 48 medals (18 gold) ahead of Russia and Korea.

The Harbin Winter Universiade is reported to have recorded the highest live TV coverage ever for a Winter Universiade and combined the sports program with an extensive cultural program during the entire period of the event. It also featured the first international alpine downhill competition in Chinese history, held in Yabuli on a piste with 620m vertical drop and in challenging conditions with -18℃ degrees.

The next Winter Universiade will be held in Erzurum, Turkey in 2011. For more info, visit www.fisu.net  or www.harbin2009.org   

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 Inside FIS 

President Kasper heavily involved in IOC work
FIS President Gian Franco Kasper
Photo: Agence Zoom

The International Olympic Committee has announced the composition of its working commissions for 2009. The role of these commissions is to guide the IOC and the Organizing Committees for the Olympic Games in their missions.

FIS President Gian Franco Kasper continues to serve in the IOC Radio and Television Commission as well as the Coordination Commission for the XXI Olympic Winter Games - Vancouver 2010 and the equivalent commission for the XXII Olympic Winter Games - Sochi 2014.

As reported recently, he has been named as President of the Coordination Commission for the 1st Youth Winter Games - Innsbruck 2012. The members of this new commission have also been appointed and are Ottavio Cinquanta (ITA), President of the International Skating Union, Janko Dvorsak (SLO), Vladimir Khotochkin (RUS), Robert Storey (CAN) and Olympic champion skiers Rebecca Scott (CAN) and Pernilla Wiberg (SWE). The Coordination Commission will monitor preparations for the Youth Olympic Games and guide the Innsbruck Organizing Committee over the next three years. President Kasper, together with IOC President Jacques Rogge, Olympic Games Executive Director Gilbert Felli and the Head of the Youth Olympic Games, Essar Gabriel, visited Innsbruck in January and will continue working closely with the local team in the lead up to the first Winter Youth Olympic Games.

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Schedule changes at Snowboard Junior Worlds
Opening ceremony
Photo: Swiss Ski

The FIS Junior World Snowboard Championships in Kitashiga-Kogen Nagano (JPN) began with a traditional Japanese opening ceremony on 2nd March. The competitions are being organized at three different ski areas, located just 15 minutes apart by bus. The snowboard cross is held at Ryuoo Ski Park while the parallel events take place at the Kitashiga Yomase Ski area and the half-pipe at the Kitashiga Takaifuji Ski area.

The snowboard cross qualification was held in good conditions as scheduled on 3rd March but unfortunately the finals scheduled for Wednesday 4th March had to be cancelled due to inclement weather. They have been rescheduled for Thursday, 5th March.. The new program foresees both the SBX finals and the parallel giant slalom on 5th March. The parallel slalom and half-pipe will be carried out according to the original plan on 6th March and 7th March, respectively.

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