News from the World of Skiing 

19 Nations on FIS World Cup podium in the last week
Simon Schoch (SUI), Nendaz winner

The last week was busy within the FIS World Cups: a total of ten events in six countries took place on three continents and no less than 19 nations achieved top three finishes. With 13 medals, this week's ranking is led by Austria, closely followed by Norway with 12 medals, and with Germany in 3rd position with nine World Cup podium places.

In Saturday's pursuit races in Oberstdorf (GER), the German Cross-Country team used its home ground advantage to rank four ladies and three men in the top ten, including Tobias Angerer taking his fifth season victory. In Sunday's sprints, Norway dominated with four of the six podium places. The special Warsteiner Awards for the best U25 (under 25 years) athletes in each race were granted to Stefanie B派ler (GER) and Nikolai Pankratov (RUS) on Saturday, and to Lina Andersson (SWE) and Johan Kjoelstad (NOR) on Sunday.

In the FIS Ski Jumping World Cup, Sapporo (JPN) hosted its 51st World Cup. In the two competitions, Norway and Japan split all the podium places between them. Once again it was Roar Ljoekelsoey who proved to be the real champion of the Okura hill by winning for the fifth time in Sapporo on Sunday. Placing third in both competitions, 35-year-old Takanobu Okabe (JPN) became the oldest jumper to stand on the World Cup Ski Jumping podium giving the Japanese team a timely boost prior to the Olympics..

In Harrachov (CZE), Mother Nature gave the Nordic Combined athletes a long waiting test on Saturday only to reward them with beautiful winter weather on Sunday. After claiming his 8th and 9th season victories and emerging with an overall World Cup lead of over 500 points, Hannu Manninen (FIN) has the chance to confirm his overall World Cup victory in Seefeld (AUT) next weekend.

The ladies' Alpine World Cup weekend in St. Moritz marked the return of the FIS Alpine World Cup to the host resort of the 2003 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships. The weekend also demonstrated the strength of the Austrian ladies' team that managed to place no less than three and up to seven athletes in the top ten in each of the three races. In Friday's downhill race the Swiss home team posed a highly credible challenge by placing six ladies in the top 13. Janica Kostelic's (CRO) victory in Sunday's super combined and 3rd place in the super-G helped her grow her lead in the overall World Cup standings to over 200 points.

In the men's Alpine World Cup in Kitzb”el (AUT), World Cup leader Benni Raich (AUT) became the official Hahnenkamm winner in 2006 by winning the combined competition of Saturday's downhill and Sunday's slalom. Giorgia Rocca (ITA) missed his sixth victory in a row in the Ganslernhang slalom after he failed to finish the difficult first run as Jean Pierre Vidal of France, the reigning Olympic slalom champion, won in style. More than 50,000 fans saw Michael Walchhofer (AUT) triumph for the first time on the infamous Streif downhill just ahead of Marco Buechel (LIE) while Hermann Maier stole the title of the "King of Streif Super-G", winning his 5th super-G race on the legendary course, from newcomer Peter Fill of Italy by just five hundreds of a second. In the last slalom before Turin in Schladming on Tuesday evening, Kalle Palander (FIN) claimed his first World Cup victory since March 2004.

In Snowboarding, two Swiss towns Leysin and Nendaz debuted as FIS World Cup Snowboard hosts by staging the last two half pipe competitions and the last parallel slalom prior to the Olympic Winter Games in Turin. On its home turf, the Swiss team continued its strong performances, taking a third of the total of 18 podium places. In the second half-pipe competition in Leysin, Paulina Ligocka of Poland secured the first ever half pipe World Cup victory for her home country while team mate Jagna Marczulajtis also had a good showing by winning the parallel slalom in Nendaz.

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Full Freestyle weekend offers one of the last chances to win Olympic Ticket
Canadian triumph in men's aerials

Variable weather conditions confronted the Freestyle FIS World Cups held in Kreischberg (AUT) and Lake Placid (USA) last weekend. Overall, the Canadian team showed its strength by winning six of the 24 podium places, while the USA traveled home with four.

In Kreischberg, site of the 2003 FIS Snowboard World Championships and recent FIS World Cup Snowboard event, ski cross competitions enjoyed great weather and course conditions. Tomas Kraus (CZE) won his second ski cross of the season while Magdalena Iljans (SWE) won her first this year.

Meanwhile in Lake Placid (USA), the mogul skiers competed on Whiteface Mountain and aerialists took to the jumps of the Ski Jumping complex for a night competition. A major storm played havoc with the aerial competitions. While the women were able to get a one-jump competition off as scheduled, the men's competition had to be rescheduled to Sunday afternoon.

On Sunday, sunny skies and mild temperatures saw a full day of action as the mogul competitions were held on Whiteface after which all the equipment, TV production, officials and organizers quickly moved over to complete the men's aerial competition.

This was one of the last chances for many Freestyle athletes to qualify for their Olympic teams. Interestingly, Germany, with Gerhard Bloechl, now has an Olympic qualifier in moguls. Dale Begg-Smith (AUS) winner of both mogul competitions last weekend now leads the mogul FIS World Cup. On the ladies side, Kari Traa (NOR) looks to be gaining back her Olympic form.

The next mogul competition will take place in Madonna di Campiglio (ITA) this Saturday night, host of the 2007 FIS Freestyle World Ski Championships. The aerialists have a week off before the ski cross, mogul and aerial FIS World Cup Freestyle gather in Spindleruv Mlyn (CZE).

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Slovenia hosts its first FIS Nordic World Championships
Ladies Ski Jumping debuts in Kranj

From January 30th-February 5th, 2006, the best young athletes in Ski Jumping, Cross-Country and Nordic Combined will gather in Slovenia for the first FIS Nordic World Championships there. In 1992, Maribor hosted the 11th FIS Alpine Junior World Championships which it repeated with great success in 2004. This time, the 17th FIS Nordic Junior Ski World Championships will also include the first official FIS U23 (under 23 years) World Championships for Cross-Country.

Altogether, 60 medals will be awarded in six days; 42 in Cross-Country (24 for U18 and 18 for U23), nine in Ski Jumping and nine in Nordic Combined (both U18 only). A total of 1002 athletes from 38 nations have registered to compete in Slovenia. Another premiere in the Kranj competition program is the first official Junior World Championship competition for ladies in Ski Jumping in which 30-40 competitors are expected to participate.

Two cities, Kranj and Medvode, will serve as competition venues. Ski Jumping will take place at the National Nordic Skiing Centre of Kranj and Cross-Country skiing at the Preska Cross-Country Center near Medvode located at an altitude of just over 300m. "Last weekend, we hosted the Slovenian national championships in pursuit and individual sprint as test races for the FIS Junior World Championships. The weather forecast for the next several days promises cold temperatures and possibly even snowfall so we are confident about the snow situation and look forward to some very exciting competitions here in Medvode," said Uros Ponikvar, Chief of Competition for Cross-Country junior and U-23 competitions.

The opening, closing and medal ceremonies will take place in the old town of Kranj, including other side events such as theater, music and film performances as well as traditional Slovenian folk shows.

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 Inside FIS 

Gian-Franco Kasper at the WEF

FIS President, Gian-Franco Kasper, is participating in the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, from 25th - 29th January, 2006.. The theme of this year's Annual Meeting is "The Creative Imperative", which includes such sub-themes as "The Emergence of China and India", "New Mindsets and Changing Attitudes", "Innovation, Creativity and Design Strategy" and "The Impact of Sport in the World." Other acclaimed participants at this year's Forum include German Chancellor Angela Merkel, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, IOC President Jacques Rogge, actress Angelina Jolie, and musician Bono, among many other leaders from the world of politics, business and entertainment.

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FIS develops Injury Surveillance System

FIS has agreed to develop an Injury Surveillance System (ISS) for the FIS disciplines. Aimed at reducing the number of injuries suffered by elite athletes, the FIS ISS research project will be led by the Oslo Sports Trauma Research Center and supported by dj Orthopedics, a global medical device company specializing in rehabilitation and regeneration products.

"FIS is concerned about the number of injuries suffered by elite athletes in the FIS disciplines. This project will provide us with current and reliable data on injury trends at the elite level so that we can begin to take the appropriate steps to address the risk factors through our rules and regulations, as well as obtaining a basis for providing proper injury prevention programs," said Bengt Saltin, Chairman of the FIS Medical Committee.

The specific objectives of the FIS ISS project include monitoring injury patterns; monitoring trends in injury risk across the disciplines; and providing background data for in-depth studies of the causes of injury for particular injury types in specific disciplines, such as serious knee and head injuries.

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FIS Online Media Guide - source of a wealth of information

Did you know that in this season's FIS World Cup Cross-Country, Norway has claimed a total of 31 podiums, followed by Germany with 23 podiums, and that 14 nations so far have had top three finishes? Did you also know that it is Val d'Isere (FRA) that has organized the most FIS World Cup Alpine races (135)? Or that Karine Ruby (FRA) who ended her World Cup career in Kronplatz (ITA) ten days ago still holds the title of the youngest winner in the FIS World Cup Snowboard?

These tidbits of information and much more are available in the FIS Media Guide on the FIS website (left navigator). Updated automatically after every FIS event, the FIS Online Media Guide has own sections for Cross-Country, Ski Jumping, Nordic Combined, Alpine, Freestyle and Snowboard. Discipline-specific information includes athlete biographies, various title event overviews, podiums by nation and athlete, youngest and oldest winners per discipline, to mention just a few highlights.

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 In Depth 

Mid-Season Analysis: FIS Alpine World Cup with G]ter Hujara and Atle Skaardal
G]ter Hujara
Atle Skaardal

With just 16 days to go to Turin, G]ter Hujara and Atle Skaardal, FIS Race Directors Alpine, provided FIS Newsflash with an assessment of the season so far as well as some insights into the future.

FIS Newsflash: How would you evaluate the season so far?

G]ter Hujara: After the relatively difficult start we experienced with the overseas downhill and super G speed events, the season has only been getting better and better. We had some fantastic races for the men already before Christmas, especially in the technical disciplines, and my overall evaluation of the season so far is undoubtedly positive. With few schedule changes, strong TV ratings and new spectator records in Alta Badia, Val Gardena, Adelboden, Wengen and Kitzb”el, I could not say anything else. Thanks to the excellent cooperation with the organizers, we've enjoyed excellent course conditions in all the races. I am also pleased with the increasingly high standards of organization, both structural and from the sporting perspective, which have allowed us to reach the quality levels we have set ourselves. All in all, the FIS World Cup Alpine is flourishing in all respects!

Atle Skaardal: On the ladies' side, we had a great start for the season in North America. Upon our return to Europe, we had some weather-related problems and had to work very hard to secure the races in Zagreb (CRO) and Spindleruv Mlyn (CZE). Despite the immense efforts of the experienced organizers in Maribor (SLO), we even had to cancel the Giant Slalom there. The race has been rescheduled for Ofterschwang (GER) next week. By contrast, the speed weekend in Bad Kleinkirchheim (AUT), the first FIS World Cup there since 1997, went really well.

Overall, it is my first season as FIS Race Director for the ladies' World Cup and I have been very impressed by the professionalism of the organizers. I have also greatly enjoyed the high level of competition in every event. The Austrian women's team has been very strong but because there are so many great skiers from several nations, the races have been very exciting.

FIS Newsflash: How would you rate the new Super-Combined event, now in its second season, and are there any other changes you foresee for the FIS Alpine World Cup?

G]ter Hujara: The new format has proven to be what we expected: spectacular. There has been positive feedback from the nations and skiers alike. In the Wengen Super-Combined, we set a new record of 70 starters in a combined race and it was the first time in men's FIS World Cup Alpine that the entire top class in both downhill and slalom started in a single race.

In terms of the future, we obviously monitor the equipment situation very closely to ensure the athletes' safety. In fact, we have already prepared a proposal with certain changes which is currently being discussed in the FIS committees and will hopefully be approved in the FIS Congress in Portugal in May. We also continue to evaluate the format of the FIS World Cup calendar with view of concentrating the future racing calendar in fewer, but the highest quality venues.

Atle Skaardal: I think the Super Combined has great potential: it was designed to bring the best downhill and slalom skiers to compete together at the highest level. We have only had one race this season - last weekend in St. Moritz (SUI) - and still need to give it a little bit more time to establish itself. The feedback has been positive, however.

For the future, we must continue to develop the safety aspect of our sport. It is a high speed sport and we must make it as safe as possible.

FIS Newsflash: Your expectations for Torino 2006?

G]ter Hujara: After some earlier difficulties, I am now confident that we will be ready by the time the Olympic Winter Games open. The organizers have been working very hard and their effort is delivering impressive results.

Atle Skaardal: I have only been involved from the technical perspective and there, including in all the ladies' competition venues, it looks good. Everything seems to be ready and I expect to see some great races in Torino.

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