As every year, the progress report on the development of the women’s side of Nordic Combined is released in spring. Concurring with this year’s report which you can find here, we checked in with FIS Race Director Lasse Ottesen and FIS Continental Cup Coordinator Michael Neumayer about their observations of the development last winter, what we can expect from the “biggest and most important season for Nordic Combined ever” and how the Corona-virus outbreak is influencing the planning for upcoming events.
What are your observations about the level of performance in Women’s Nordic Combined in the last winter?
Michael Neumayer: We had nine competitions and four different winners, which shows that there is a lot more width also in the top end of the field, compared to last year. The level definitely rose this year and I would say there currently are six to eight athletes who have the potential to win a Continental Cup.
Of course the gap between the top athletes and the weaker ones is still relatively big but the number of participants who perform Nordic Combined on a very respectable level, on the hill and on the track, is rising. The development is moving even faster than we thought. This is great and important as we will have both, the Nordic Combined Women’s World Cup and FIS Nordic World Ski Championship debuts next year.
Our athletes, coaches and National Ski Associations are doing a great job to develop our sport and I hope this momentum will stay with us for a long time.
How happy are you with the development of the Women’s Nordic Combined in general?
Lasse Ottesen: When we look at the last two to three years, we are very happy with the development of Women’s Nordic Combined. We have seen a steady growth in number of female athletes with a FIS code and in the number of women taking part in our events.
The level of competition that our women are presenting has made the biggest impression on me. It has developed in a very good way in the last years and we are sure that it will continue in this way in coming seasons.
As mentioned, next winter will be a big year for Women’s Nordic Combined with the introduction of the World Cup and first World Championships. How do you look towards these biggest steps for Women’s NC to date?
Ottesen: The season 2020/21 will be the biggest and most important season for Nordic Combined ever. The Women’s World Cup will have its debut in Lillehammer in December 2020 and the Nordic Combined women will be part of the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships Oberstdorf 2021 for the first time. We are very exited about this and believe that it will develop Nordic Combined as a discipline tremendously.
How happy are you with the development of the Women’s Nordic Combined Continental Cup this year?
Neumayer: We had four great competition weekends, unfortunately we lost Otepää due to a lack of snow as the fifth competition weekend for women this winter.
Nevertheless, the development is really proceeding well. The level of performance is rising, the numbers of participants are rising and we have reached a respectable competition system by now. This does not only make me proud but I have the impression that our female athletes are also proud to be a part of it and compete in the events.
As a next step, we hope to be able to present a great calendar when the World Cup will be introduced next winter, so that the female Nordic Combined athletes will have eight, nine or event ten options on different levels, from Continental Cup to the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships, to present themselves and their sport next winter.
Speaking of the competition calendar, what can we expect for the Nordic Combined women next winter?
Ottesen: We are working on four World Cup event weekends for the coming winter and four to five Continental Cup weekends.
Together with the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Oberstdorf (GER) and the FIS Nordic Junior World Ski Championships in Zakopane (POL) it will be a full calendar for the Nordic Combined women, especially given the fact that we have a young starting field with most athletes eligible for junior and senior events.
In general, men’s and women’s events will always take place together at the same venues and we expect that during the first few years, the female athletes starting in World and Continental Cup will be largely the same.
The Continental Cup and the Junior World Championships featured the first-ever Mixed Team Events this year, how did these go?
Neumayer: The Mixed Team event left a sensationally good impression. As we saw during the Summer Grand Prix 2019, it is such a great occasion when men and women fight together for medals, wins, podium places and ultimately, for the same sport.
The first Mixed Team event in Continental Cup took place in Eisenerz (AUT) and was a huge hit on location, 10 teams competed. At the FIS Nordic Junior World Ski Championships in Oberwiesenthal (GER), we even had 11 teams and would have had 12 if an athlete didn’t injure herself shortly before the event.
It was absolutely the right decision to include this event in the JWSC programme and give the women a second chance to compete. This event was the undisputed Nordic Combined highlight of the COC winter and of the JWSC.
Is the Corona-crisis a concern for you in terms of planning the Summer Grand Prix and the upcoming winter season?
Ottesen: In this very special situation with the Covid-19 virus outbreak, we are currently monitoring the situation around the world very closely and will of course follow the advice and regulations from experts and governments when it comes to planning our next events.
In terms of the Summer Grand Prix, we are in close contact and cooperation with the National Ski Associations and Organising Committees and we will make decisions about the Summer Grand Prix in the coming weeks and months.
At the moment we are working for the FIS Nordic Combined Women’s World Cup to have its premiere in the coming season in the same way that we are working towards the next World Cup season for the men and hope that we will be able to start the winter season as planned.