|News from the World of Skiing|
Three Questions to Joe Fitzgerald ... more
|News from the World of Skiing|
|Gregor Schlierenzauer (AUT)|
|Lindsay Kildow (USA)|
Photo: Agence Zoom
Swiss jumpers Simon Ammann and Andreas Kuettel made history in the e.on ruhrgas FIS World Cup Ski Jumping competition held in Lillehammer (NOR) last Saturday as they captured the first-ever double victory for their native country. It was also only the second time that Ammann won a World Cup in his career, more than four and a half years since the first time in Oslo in 2002. On Sunday, 16-year-old Gregor Schlierenzauer (AUT) claimed his first World Cup win in only his second start on the circuit after having set a new hill record of 141 m the day before as he ranked 4th. Also on Sunday, Adam Malysz (POL) celebrated his 29th birthday with his 62nd podium place while Italy's Sebastian Colloredo made it into the Top 10 for the first time in his career.
Also in Lillehammer, the season's second Individual Gundersen competition in the Warsteiner FIS World Cup Nordic Combined saw a huge fight for victory among Magnus Moan (NOR), Sebastian Haseney (GER) and Hannu Manninen (FIN), all of whom finished within 0.5 seconds in this order. In Sunday's sprint race, difficult wind conditions prolonged the jumping portion of the competition over several hours. The skiing was then all the faster and the experienced Christoph Bieler (AUT) sprinted to the finish before 18-year-old Anssi Koivuranta (FIN) and Maxime Laheurte (FRA) who grabbed his first podium place.
At Lake Louise (CAN), the star of the first speed weekend in the ladies' Audi FIS Alpine World Cup was Lindsay Kildow (USA), who was the only athlete to stand on the podium in each race; once at the very top (in Saturday's downhill) and twice in 2nd place. However, she was joined there twice by the ever-as-strong Austrian veteran Renate Goetschl who took her 39th World Cup victory in Sunday's super-G. Germany's Maria Riesch showed that she has recovered from her repeated injuries by triumphing in the season's first downhill whilst Kelly Vanderbeek (CAN) finally claimed her long-overdue career-first podium place by placing 3rd on Sunday.
On the men's side, we have seen seven different winners from seven nations in the seven races staged in the Audi FIS Alpine World Cup so far. After Aksel Lund Svindal (NOR)˙took control of the season's first super combined at Beaver Creek (USA), one of the season's most spectacular downhills provided the stage for the `return' of Bode Miller (USA) to the top of the podium. Young blood then took control of the slalom finale at Birds of Prey on Sunday as Andre Myhrer (23, SWE) edged Michael Janyk (24, CAN) and Felix Neureuther (22, GER) to take his third career podium. Neither Janyk nor Neureuther had reached the podium before. At the same time, the Austrians had never failed to win a race during a Birds of Prey World Cup tour stop since the venue was included in 1997. That streak ended on Sunday. After seven of the total of 38 events, Svindal - runner up to Massimiliano Blardone (ITA) with Ted Ligety (USA) in third in Saturday's giant slalom - now leads the overall Audi FIS Alpine World Cup.
|Jilin Beida Lake (CHN)|
The continuing warm weather across Europe has forced additional changes in the FIS World Cup calendars. Following the cancellation of the ladies' and men's Alpine events in St. Moritz (SUI) and Val d'Isre (FRA) scheduled for the weekend of 9th-10th December, FIS offered the opportunity to the United States Ski and Snowboard Association to reschedule the events before the teams left North America. USSA was, however, unable to do so. The men's Audi FIS Alpine World Cup will now continue on Reiteralm (AUT), near Schladming, next Sunday with a super combined consisting of a super-G and one-run slalom. The outlook for the races scheduled for Val Gardena/Groeden (ITA) from 15th - 16th December is also positive. The amount of manmade snow is already sufficient for the race course and crash zones. Low temperatures are forecast for this weekend to aid artificial snow production, and a final decision will be made on Saturday at the latest. The snow control for the ladies' downhill and super-G events scheduled for 16th - 17th December in Val d'Isere is coming up soon, too.
Changing weather conditions have also wrought havoc with the Viessmann FIS World Cup Cross-Country. While the initially planned events - a sprint in Aosta and a distance race in Cogne - had to be cancelled, thanks to the persistence of the Valle d'Aosta team to make snow, they will now host a classical technique distance races in Cogne on Wednesday, 13th December.
The next e.on ruhrgas FIS World Cup Ski Jumping event will be staged in Engelberg (SUI) from 16th-17th December, following the cancellation of the World Cup weekend in Harrachov (CZE) due to mild weather. The Nokia Snowboard FIS World Cup parallel giant slalom races in San Vigilio di Marebbe (ITA) were rescheduled there just ten days later on 13th December 2006. The snowboardcross races in Bad Gastein (AUT) were postponed by just three days to 17th-18th December while the parallel slalom stays on its original date. Last but not least, the aerials season opener for Freestyle FIS World Cup is secure˙as there is great snow in China (see˙photo).˙The snow control for the moguls opener in Tignes (FRA) will take place tomorrow Thursday 7th December. Some weather forecasts are predicting a significant snow storm for the South side of the Alps for the weekend.
|Styrian delegation with FIS leadership|
President Gian Franco Kasper received a delegation from the government of Styria, Austria, at the FIS Office in Oberhofen (SUI) on Tuesday, 5th December. Following an invitation extended at the FIS Ski Flying World Championships at Kulm (AUT) in January, Ing. Manfred Wegscheider, Minister for Sport, Environment and Renewable Energy in Styria, was accompanied by Dr. Fritz Stehlik, Director of Sports Department in Styria, and Gnter Abraham. The discussions focused on major sports events held in Styria, especially on the pending candidature of Schladming for the 2013 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships that is fully supported by the state government. The delegation also expressed the interest of Styria in hosting other large skiing events in close cooperation with all applicable national and international parties.
Following the decision of the IOC last week to include ski cross on the program of the Olympic Winter Games, Chris Robinson, the Canadian Chairman of the FIS Freestyle Committee, provided a few comments on behalf of the FIS Freestyle community. The International Olympic Committee's announcement noted that the acceptance of ski cross on the program of the 2010 Games in Vancouver is subject to the agreement of the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee which expressed its support for the inclusion the week prior to the decision of the IOC Executive Board.
"The addition of ladies and men's ski cross to the Olympic Winter Games' program is a great leap forward for the sport of Freestyle," commented Chris Robinson. "The Freestyle community has worked to modernize the discipline for the past six years since FIS President Gian Franco Kasper told the Committee leadership that we were at risk of becoming irrelevant if did not make changes within our sports. We embraced this challenge, in part with the introduction of ski cross and half-pipe."
"Ski cross became a special focus for us because we could see strong support from the ski industry to help fast-track its development. Without the support of Salomon, Dynastar, Rossignol, Fischer and others, its growth especially on the World Cup level would not have been possible. We also owe much to the ski cross pioneers and events like the X-Games that brought this exciting event to large audiences of young people in North America. Following on this success, the Saab Salomon Crossmax series helped open up participation in ski cross to young people in many countries around the world," Robinson continued. "The success of snowboardcross in Turin helped demonstrate to the IOC the potential of this Freestyle event. With the acceptance into the 2010 Games, we think that Cypress Mountain that is located on the outskirts of the city itself can be the most exciting venue in Vancouver, with ski cross drawing the crowds together with the other Freestyle and Snowboard events." Joe Fitzgerald, FIS Freestyle Coordinator, when asked defined the event as: "Freestyle ski cross is an event where trained alpine athletes use freestyle jumping skills while competing head to head on a snowboard cross course. It really is a complete test of a skier's skills in a ski competition."
With the introduction of the ladies' and men's ski cross to the Olympic Winter Games, the number of Olympic medals in Freestyle Skiing now amounts to 18. Ladies' and men's moguls were first introduced in Albertville in 1992, followed by the ladies' and men's aerials in Lillehammer in 1994. At the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, the ski cross competitions are planned to be held at Cypress Mountain, the venue for both Freestyle Skiing and Snowboard. Ski cross could be staged on the same slope with only minor modifications as the snowboardcross competitions.
The Belarus Olympic Committee and the Government of Belarus announced last week that they have approved the construction of a new `Aqua Park' in Minsk. This USD 30 million multi-purpose water training complex will also include the world's first indoor freestyle aerials site (water ramp).
Located near the center of Minsk, the `Aqua Park' - with a total area of some 8'000m2 - will be enjoyed by the 1.4 million residents in Minsk, the capital city of Belarus, along with the members of the Belarus Freestyle Team. The total height of the complex roof will be 35 meters off of the water surface and the height of the in-run of the water ramp will be some 38 meters. The facility can also be used for water jumping competitions since it will have three standard jump take-offs.
Victor Groshev, Vice President of Belarus Freestyle Skiing Federation, and Nikolay Kozeko, National Team Coach and member of FIS Freestyle Committee noted: "This project secures the future of Freestyle in Belarus. We will have the best facility in the world. We look forward to training here and also providing training opportunities for other nations. We will have several aerial jumps and these jumps can be used for training by snowboarders and ski cross athletes as well." The plans for the new complex have been stimulated by the successes of the Belarus Freestyle team including such Olympic aerial stars as Dmitry Dashinski (Bronze in Nagano in 1998, silver in Torino in 2006) and Alexey Grishin (Bronze in Salt Lake City 2002). Their success has also played a key role in enabling further development of Freestyle Skiing in Belarus and its nearby region.
Three Questions to Joe Fitzgerald
The Freestyle FIS World Cup season will launch with two aerials events for ladies and men at Jilin Beida Lake (CHN), the fourth Chinese World Cup host, on 9th-10th December. FIS Freestyle Coordinator Joe Fitzgerald shared some of his thoughts before the season that culminates in the FIS Freestyle World Championships in Madonna di Campiglio (ITA).
FIS Newsflash: What is your general feeling about the 2006-2007 season?
Joe Fitzgerald: The post-Olympic seasons are often a time for reflection. Many team officials have retired or changed positions. I personally think that the Olympics are the icing on the cake, not the cake itself. However, those with an Olympic medal have had, in most cases, a positive impact with greater funding for their teams and the respective national programs.
Some prominent skiers have retired, opening the door for other skiers to move up the ladder. At the beginning of the season, the hard work by the athletes and coaches in the summer is expressed in the first competitions which often set the tone for the rest of the season.
Strategically, we have reduced the number of FIS Freestyle World Cup locations while maintaining more or less the same number of events. The net effect of this is to reduce the team's traveling costs. At any rate, in Freestyle we effectively deliver a `world' tour. We will visit Asia for aerials in December and for moguls & ski cross in February. We are in Scandinavia in March for moguls & half-pipe. For most of January, we tour the stronghold of Freestyle - North America - with four locations and a total of 22 events. Of course, Central Europe plays a prominent role with Austria, Switzerland and France holding 24 events.
FIS Newsflash: What is particular about this season?
Joe Fitzgerald: Weather always plays a dominating role at the beginning of the season and the phrase `we are waiting for the snow' comes to mind. We did this in Australia from July until September, and now we hope that cold temperatures and snow arrive in time to enable some successful competitions in December. The national teams use these early competitions to qualify for the World Championships, so staging them has an added meaning for everyone.
This season's `feature competition' will be the 2007 FIS Freestyle World Championships in Madonna di Campiglio (ITA). These organizers are very unique in that they have already run some 55 editions of major Alpine ski racing competitions as well as the 2001 FIS Snowboard World Championships. They love sports in the Trentino area! For the second time, half-pipe and ski cross will be included, adding a special flavor. The competitions sites at Madonna are unique with both day and night competitions being possible. The organizers expect around 30 nations and some 350 athletes and officials to attend. The TV distribution looks to be very strong with many important nations taking the signal.
FIS Newsflash: Are there any changes we should note?
Joe Fitzgerald: While this season will be pretty much like the last, the FIS Freestyle Committee is in the process of reviewing the past several seasons and there are some new considerations coming forward. We see an increased interest in the Freestyle skiing, which we expect to continue to grow especially now that ski cross has obtained Olympic status.
As a long term direction, we've seen that when skiers compete directly against each other, there is more interest in each part of the competition. Presently, in ski cross, four skiers compete with each other and in dual moguls, two skiers go off against each other. For this season, we also changed some aerial rules introducing the so-called `Knock-Out' format. In this format, two skiers compete against each other and the skier with the highest score moves onto the next round. That way, there isn't just a winner in the end, but a winner at each round.
We are also testing and evaluating new methods to measure the skiers' performance. The development of high definition digital video and special analysis software programs provides some very exciting new possibilities. We can measure airtime, height and other objective criteria. We expect such new systems to have a very positive impact on our sport and on its presentation on TV and other forms of new media.