|FIS at Torino 2006|
Out of the 84 events and 252 medals at stake during the XX Olympic Winter Games, FIS disciplines will be responsible for 38 events and 114 medals. This is two titles and six medals more than four years ago in Salt Lake City, USA.
Since 2002, the most changes for any FIS discipline have taken place in Cross-Country Skiing. While the total number of events has remained at 12, six for both ladies and men, one of the individual competitions has been replaced by a new team event: the team sprint in which the two members ski a 1.5 km loop three times each. Another big change within Cross-Country Skiing has been the further development of the pursuit race. In Salt Lake City, the pursuit was staged as two separate competitions on a single day, with a break in between. In Turin, there will be no break but rather the skiers will switch their equipment during a "pit stop" with the clock running. As in 2002, the combined time is what counts, only now the entire race is staged as a single, mass start event. Similarly, the long distance races, 30km for women and 50km for men, are also staged as mass start races rather than using the traditional individual start method still in use in Salt Lake City.
In Ski Jumping, there have been three main changes since the last Olympic Games: Firstly, the athletes are now required to have a minimum Body-Mass-Index (BMI) of 18.5 though the measurement takes into consideration that the athletes are wearing their jumping boots and suit: The jumpers need to fulfill minimum weight requirements to be allowed to jump with the maximum length of skis (146% of the athlete's height). Secondly, in order to provide all athletes with more equal weather conditions, the permissible starting time, the so-called "Green Period" during which the jumper must leave the start bar, has been increased from five to ten seconds. Finally, in the team event, only the best eight teams will continue on to the second round. To keep the excitement high until the end, the starting order of the last jumper group is reversed so that the representative of the leading team will perform the very last jump of the competition.
In Nordic Combined, the same BMI and equipment rules apply as for Ski Jumping. The only other changes include a change in the points/time equivalent in the team event, with 60 points on the jumping hill now equaling 1min on the cross-country course. To make the competitions more spectator-friendly, the course length has also been reduced from 5km to 3.75km, ensuring that the athletes pass more regularly in front of the grandstands.
In Alpine Skiing, the only notable change has been the increase in the required minimum length of the racing skis. Since 2002, when the minimum length for all events was 150cm/155cm for ladies/men respectively, there are now specific minimum length requirements for each event and sex in order to protect the athletes' health and safety.
The additional six Olympic medals for the FIS disciplines are awarded in Snowboarding where snowboardcross is now an Olympic event, in addition to half pipe and parallel giant slalom. Delayed start gates will now be in use in the parallel giant slalom in Turin. This means that during the second run, competitors will start based on the time differences gained in the first run and the athlete crossing the finishing line first will be the winner.
Last but not least, in Freestyle Skiing the greatest change is that inverted jumps, i.e. off-axis jumps and flips, are now allowed in the moguls competitions. Before only upright and straight jumps were allowed. As a result, the audience in Turin will see jumps with a higher degree of difficulty and up to 720ų rotations.
The Torino Olympic Torch Relay started from Rome on December 8, 2005. More than ten thousand torchbearers will have carried the Olympic Spirit around Italy by February 10, 2006 when the Flame arrives at its final destination at the Opening Ceremony of the Torino 2006 XX Olympic Winter Games. Speculation is mounting about who will light the Olympic Flame in Torino. Some of the main contenders include Alberto Tomba, three-time Olympic Champion and two-time silver medalist, Stefania Belmondo, two-time Olympic Champion and a winner of ten Olympic medals, and Manuela di Centa, two-time Olympic Champion and seven-time Olympic medalist.
At the Winter Games, the Olympic flame was lit for the first time in the VI Olympic Winter Games in Oslo in 1952. In the 14 Olympic Winter Games that have celebrated the Olympic flame, only two representatives of FIS disciplines have had the honor of lighting the Olympic cauldron. This happened both times in Innsbruck, Austria, where in 1964 Joseph Rieder, three-time FIS Alpine World Ski Championship medalist, and in 1976, when Christl Haas, World Champion in downhill and Olympic Champion in Innsbruck in 1964, had this esteemed privilege.
|News from the World of Skiing|
|Anja Prson & Maria Jos Rienda|
|Men's Sprint Podium in Davos|
The last FIS World Cups before the Olympic Winter Games served as a final test for hundreds of athletes. Five nations hosted a total of 17 World Cup competitions in which 15 nations won podium places. Austria, leading the weekend's medal ranking with 12 medals, showed a remarkable breadth of talent by having an athlete on the podium in all five disciplines. Finland took 2nd place with five medals, followed by Sweden, Norway, Switzerland and the USA all in 3rd, with four medals each.
In Davos (SUI), the Viessmann FIS World Cup Cross-Country was staged at the same altitude that awaits the teams in Pragelato. Whilst Sweden demonstrated its strength in the sprint races on Saturday, Chandra Crawford made history and became the third Canadian to make it onto the World Cup podium in ladies' Cross-Country this year as she placed 3rd. On Sunday, Virpi Kuitunen (FIN) established herself as one of the Olympic favorites by taking her first season victory in a supreme fashion, while Martin Tauber (AUT) celebrated his first World Cup podium place ranking 2nd in the men's 15km classical race.
At the E-ON Ruhrgas FIS World Cup Ski Jumping in Willingen (GER), 32,000 fans celebrated Andreas Kofler (AUT) who took the first World Cup victory of his career and the first victory for the Austrian team this season. In the difficult weather conditions including changing wind and snowfall, artificial cooling of the in-run track helped make the competition fair for everyone. On Sunday, Team Finland won the only team competition before the Olympics in front of 15,000 Ski Jumping enthusiasts.
At the ladies' Audi FIS Alpine World Cup in Ofterschwang (GER), the winner of both giant slaloms, Maria Jos Rienda Contreras, became Spain's most successful alpine skier in the history of the FIS World Cup (surpassing Blanca Fernandez-Ochoa, Olympic bronze medalist in 1992) and the country's greatest hope in Turin. On Saturday, 10,000 spectators witnessed her sharing the top of the podium with Anja Prson (SWE); it was only the third time ever that two ladies shared the victory in a World Cup giant slalom. In Sunday's slalom, Janica Kostelic (CRO) showed her class and has now won, within 36 days, at least once in all five World Cup events. Only Petra Kronberger (AUT) has achieved the Alpine "Grand Slam" before her, in just 21 days in 1990.
In the men's Audi FIS Alpine World Cup in Chamonix (FRA) the weather played havoc with the downhill races. In Friday's Super Combined that was raced on a shortened downhill course, the season's Combined King and World Cup leader Benni Raich (AUT) triumphed for the third time in as many races. On Saturday, the skiers' safety took priority and the downhill race was cancelled due to the persisting fog. The cancelled race will not be rescheduled.
In Spindleruv Mlyn (CZE), 11 nations from three continents celebrated FIS Freestyle Skiing World Cup podium places with Belarus and France each winning three. The Czech Republic, the host of the big pre-Olympic rendez-vous with great crowds and atmosphere, has come on really strong in Freestyle Skiing in the recent years, following the successes of Tomas Kraus, current leader of the ski cross World Cup, Nikola Sudova, one of the top lady mogulists and Ales Valenta, aerials Olympic Champion from Salt Lake City.
In rhe Nokia FIS World Cup Snowboard, Milan debuted as a World Cup host by staging the season's fourth big air competition at the "Porta Metropolitana", Fiera Milano. Matevz Petek (SLO) repeated his success from Winterberg (GER) by winning narrowly before the World Cup leader Stefan Gimpl of Austria who now needs only a 13th rank in the World Cup final at St. Petersburg (RUS) to take home the crystal globe in this event.
|Ski Jumping Team Podium|
The 2006 FIS Junior World Ski Champions and the first official FIS World Championships for the Under-23 (U-23) age group ended in Kranj and Medvode, Slovenia, on February 5th, 2006, with a great celebration of youth and sport. "With more than 1000 participants, including approximately 550 competitors from 39 nations, these JWSC & U23 WC set a new record for an event of their kind," stated Matija Vojsk, chairman of the organizing committee.
Out of the 60 medals awarded, Norway with a total of eleven medals, eight of them gold, won the medals ranking. The young stars of Kranj-Medvode included the skier Petter Northug (NOR), who won gold every time he started (three individual races and the relay) and became the first athlete ever to win five individual gold medals at the FIS Junior Nordic World Ski Championships; Gregor Schlierenzauner (AUT), who won two gold medals in Ski Jumping; Astrid Jacobsen (NOR) with two individual and a relay gold in Cross-Country, and Tom Betz (GER) who won two gold medals and one silver in Nordic Combined. In the U-23 category, Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) won the pursuit and the 10 km classical race. In the ladies' FIS Ski Jumping World Championship premiere, Juliane Seyfart (GER) took the gold ahead of Atsuko Tanaka (CAN) and Elena Rungaldier (ITA).
The parallel giant slalom competitions held on February 6th concluded the tenth FIS Snowboard Junior World Championships at Vivaldi Park, Korea. The well-organized event saw very high-level competitions in snowboardcross, half-pipe, big air and parallel giant slalom. With two gold medals and a silver medal, Switzerland won the medals ranking while the USA went home with a total of five medals, followed by Finland with four. Sina Candrian (SUI), who won gold in big air and bronze in half-pipe, and Julia Dujmovits (AUT), with her bronze medals in snowboardcross and parallel giant slalom, were the most successful athletes at this year's championships. The 2009 FIS Snowboard World Championships will also be held in the Gangwon province, Korea.
|David Primozic in Telemark position|
Last weekend's competitions in Rjukan (NOR) marked the completion of the FIS Telemark World Cup European Tour. After the season started in Kobla (SLO) on 13th -15th January, 2006, the Telemark skiers have competed in Meiringen (SUI), Montgenevre (FRA) and Skeikampen (NOR) in all the official events, i.e. Telemark classic, Telemark classic sprint and Telemark giant slalom.
All in all, 35 ladies and more than 100 competitors (60 scoring FIS Telemark World Cup points) from 15 nations have taken part so far. The leader for the ladies' overall World Cup is Katinka Knudsen (NOR) while the men's ranking is led by Eirik Rykhus (NOR). The World Cup will continue with the North American Tour in Kimberley (CAN) from 6th March, culminating in the Schweizer Mountain Resort (USA) on 10-12th March, 2006.
A novelty during the 12th World Cup season for FIS Telemark is a new system for collecting penalties that makes a competitor's total time, including any judges' penalties, available just 2-3 seconds after they passed the finishing line. The system has been in use in two races this season and has received positive feedback.
The other rule changes premiering this season included several modifications designed to enhance the competitors' safety such as a new safety area around the jumps. "These recent changes have had the positive impact we hoped for and we are pleased to say that there have been no serious injuries this season," commented Anthony Favre (FRA), Chairman of the FIS Committee for Telemark Skiing.
Similarly, the changes to the proportions of Telemark classic courses have served to boost the uniqueness of the sport and its identity as a discipline clearly distinct from Alpine Skiing. Telemark classic and Telemark classic sprint both include Telemark turns, jumps and either a long or a short a cross-country section. The Telemark giant slalom includes a race where the Telemark turn is used on a course similar to a giant slalom course, with a jump added. All turns are judged for proper Telemark technique, and failing to execute the proper style results in a one second penalty. Jumps are judged for distance and the style of landing; again, mistakes incur time penalties between one and seven seconds.
To complete our series, it's time for Jrg Capol, FIS Race Director Cross-Country, Walter Hofer, FIS Race Director Ski Jumping and Ulrich Wehling, FIS Race Director Nordic Combined, to provide their insights into the season so far and into the future.
FIS Newsflash: It is early February now; how would you evaluate the season so far?
Jrg Capol: Of course, one of the highlights of the season so far was the return of the Viessmann FIS World Cup Cross-Country to North America. The Canadian events in Vernon and Canmore were well organized and highly successful in terms of media coverage. The success of the Canadian team also bodes well for the Vancouver Olympics - the spirit of 2010 was already clearly noticeable. Another highlight was the debut of a New Year's race, this time in Nove Mesto (CZE), followed by a big celebration in which most teams participated. We are also very satisfied with the new format for the sprint races - the final rounds with the 30 best skiers of the qualification, compared with 16, really adds to the excitement of the heats. Finally, the fact that there have already been 15 nations on the World Cup podium this season, compared with 12 all last season, speaks for itself in terms of the competitiveness and breadth of the field.
Walter Hofer: The season has gone very well so far: We've enjoyed great external and organizational conditions in all our competitions. From an athletic perspective, it has been very exciting due to the new material restrictions that have made the competitions very tight. We have already celebrated several individual winners and no less than eight nations on the podium this season. There are several candidates vying for the overall World Cup victory so the excitement will hold on after the Olympics at the Nordic Tournament and at the Ski Flying World Cup in Planica (SLO) that completes our season.
Ulrich Wehling: In the Warsteiner FIS World Cup Nordic Combined, we've already held 15 races - that is the largest number of World Cup competitions we've ever had before the season's main event. We have also been lucky in that we have been able to stage all the competitions according to the plan; only in Ramsau (AUT) we had to reschedule the ski jumping part for the next day and in Harrachov (CZE) had a delay of a few hours due to weather problems. But overall, we have had good and fair conditions in all competitions. With 13 athletes from six nations on the podium, and eight nations with top six results, we also have had great diversity on the top, despite Hannu Manninen already confirming his overall World Cup victory.
FIS Newsflash: Looking into the future, what do you see coming for your sport?
Jrg Capol: The overall level of World Cup organization from the technical and sporting perspective has been our focus in the past and we have reached a very high level across the board. The area where we will need to focus on next is the non-sports side including the marketing, promotion and entertainment/overall production of our World Cup events. Specific steps to improve cooperation in this area will need to be discussed at the next session of the FIS Cross-Country Committee. As importantly, further quality improvements in TV production will require increased coordination with the rights holders in the future.
In terms of Turin, I am excited about the sprint relay that premieres in the Olympic program - team events in general and this fast-paced event in particular are optimal for title events. It is also great to see such as large number of nations participating in the Cross-Country competitions, especially because a large number of them have a good chance at winning a medal.
Walter Hofer: There are at least ten candidates for the Olympic medals and many favorites for the gold in each competition so I am looking forward to very exciting Olympics.
For the future, we have little need for change in terms of schedule planning or rules so our emphasis will be on improving structural and organizational conditions such as ensuring sufficient lighting capacity at major venues. We also hope to get new hills at Garmisch-Partenkirchen (GER) and Oslo (NOR), which would guarantee that we have optimal infrastructure at all our main World Cup venues. For ladies' Ski Jumping, we have had successful Continental Cup and Junior World Championships, and we will decide on next steps based on a comprehensive end-of-season analysis later on in the spring.
Ulrich Wehling: In each competition, we start from the beginning so even the most successful athletes do not have an automatic right to an Olympic medal. The best will win in Turin; in many cases the final preparations may have made a big difference. The venues look good and are well-prepared so I am happy.
In the future, we will continue to develop our sport. We have evolved from having just one event to having a variety of competition formats in the title events, including the team event (since 1982) and the sprint (since 1999). By definition, our sport offers several options, and given that it represents a combination of two very different sports, it is a challenging sport. That is why we are hoping to include the mass start competition in the 2009 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Liberec (CZE), depending on the decision of the FIS Congress in May. The mass start has established itself as part of the World Cup program since 2000 and would fit ideally into the WSC schedule. At the same time, I am also open for including ladies' Nordic Combined as soon as there is enough interest and broad overall participation both in practice and competition.