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Archives for January 2014

Davos World Cup to Be Held on Shortened Course

Saturday’s FIS Cross Country World Cup 15/30 k interval-start races in Davos, Switzerland, will be held on a six-kilometer loop for men and a five-kilometer loop for women, the organizing committee has announced, due to low snow conditions. The standard World Cup course is 7.5 kilometers.

While Switzerland got snow in early November, with some ski resorts opening early, since then warm temperatures have dominated. MétéoSuisse, the federal meteorological bureau, reported that the month of November was 0.5 to 0.7 degrees Celsius warmer than the 1981-2010 average, depending on location, and that some places saw all-time temperature records.

Some of this was driven by Föhn winds, warm, down-slope winds that warm central Europe after dropping their water on the other side of the Alps. Through November the Föhn stayed in the Swiss alps, raising temperatures in some valleys to 20°C or nearly 70°F.

The Davos organizing committee has an extensive snow-saving operation, and has been hosting races since the last weekend in October. However, snow has been consolidated into the most important parts of the race course as the surrounding areas remain dry, brown, and snowless.

Hello Switzerland 🇨🇭 sunshine and mountains 🌞🏔 👌 #Davos #davosnordic 📸@eric_packer

A photo posted by Dahria Beatty (@dar_snowangel) on

Dec. 1 Roundup: Graves FIS Journalist of the Year; Kalla Seeks Medical Treatment

Peter Graves (c) with his FIS Journalist of the Year award, alongside FIS Secretary General Sarah Lewis (l) and USSA CEO Tiger Shaw. (Photo: FIS)

Peter Graves (c) with his FIS Journalist of the Year award, alongside FIS Secretary General Sarah Lewis (l) and USSA CEO Tiger Shaw. (Photo: FIS)

– Peter Graves, one of the most prominent voices in skiing, was honored as the International Ski Federation’s (FIS) Journalist of the Year during the alpine World Cup in Killington, Vt., last weekend. The award is presented by both FIS and the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA).

After skiing collegiately at Fort Lewis College, Graves, originally from Bennington, Vt., began his career in broadcasting. His passion for the sport grew to the point where he has either been a venue announcer or broadcaster at nine summer and winter Olympic Games dating back to his role with ABC sports for the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics. He most recently served as interim director for the New England Nordic Ski Association (NENSA), up until October.

According to a USSA press release, Graves, 64, said, “I’m deeply humbled in receiving this award, Being honored by your peers means the world to me. From the moment I first heard Bob Beattie call the Hahnenkamm I dreamed of announcing ski racing. It was electrifying and still is today! In many ways I feel like I’m just starting out in my career. It still energizes me in a way that moves me to the core.”

Graves is the 17th recipient of this award and is in good company with some of the sports most noted journalists. “Peter is a highly worthy recipient of the FIS Journalist Award,” FIS Secretary General Sarah Lewis said. “His extensive knowledge of the sport and each of the disciplines comes across loud and clear in his commentary and reporting. Peter’s commentary is always a pleasure to listen to, in addition to communicating well-researched facts and figures about the competition, the course and the athletes.”

 

– After a disappointing start to the season in Ruka, two-time Olympian Charlotte Kalla of Sweden said that she did not feel well during the races. Kalla finished 75th out of 79 in the women’s 10 k classic, four minutes behind the winner, Marit Bjørgen of Norway. After the weekend, Kalla flew back to Stockholm to undergo a thorough medical examination, according to Expressen.se. It was found out that she has atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure, or other heart-related complications.

“I’m relieved because I’m not sick, tests have shown. I experienced a situation that I had never experienced in my life every day,” Kalla told Ski-Nordique.net.

The Swedish team’s spokesperson Per Andersson told Interia Sport, “We are confident that Charlotte after a rest will return quickly to normal training and compete on an international level.”

 

– One season out from the 2018 Olympics, US Biathlon team veteran Tim Burke is eyeing Olympic gold. Burke has been ranked first in the world, won silver at World Championships and made three U.S. Olympic teams, but has yet to win the coveted gold. Burke considered retiring going after the 2014 Olympics, but he was not 100 percent because of sickness.

“If you are not 100 percent physically in this sport, it makes it pretty difficult to compete at a high level,” Burke told TeamUSA.org.

He became the first American to wear the yellow bib as the top-ranked biathlete in the 2009/2010 season. At the age of 34, Burke will look to become the first American to win an Olympic medal. “It would be a dream come true to win an Olympic medal,” he said. “I’ve put so much time into pursuing this. I am planning to retire after the Olympics, so this will be it for me.”

— Ian Tovell

Cross Country Canada Names New CEO: Shane Pearsall

Shane Pearsall, Cross Country Canada's incoming CEO (Photo: CCC)

Shane Pearsall, Cross Country Canada’s incoming CEO (Photo: CCC)

Corporate leader returns to sport community to build on strong foundation of shaping bright future for Nordic sport

(Press release)

CANMORE, Alta. — After spending the last decade in Alberta’s oil patch, Shane Pearsall is returning to the Canadian sport community, January 1, as the chief executive officer for Cross Country Ski de Fond Canada, the Board of Directors announced on Monday.

The Chef de Mission for the 2006 Canadian Olympic Team, Pearsall was the chief operating officer of Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton (BCS) for three years before returning to his career in the oil and gas industry in 2006 where he took on leadership positions with AltaGas and EnCana Corporation/Cenovus Energy.

A member of Canada’s National Men’s Hockey Team in 1980, Pearsall is most recognized in the sport community for his work at BCS where he developed a corporate strategy designed to build extensive relationships with the organization’s major government and corporate partners that continue with him today, motivated a team of dedicated professionals, and managed a financially sustainable budget – all of which contributed to providing a pathway for athletes to deliver countless World Championship, World Cup, and a record-setting four Olympic medals for the sports of bobsleigh and skeleton in Torino.

“Shane is very well respected in the Canadian sport community and is no stranger to cross-country ski circles in Canada, so our selection committee felt he was an ideal fit to lead our sport to 2018 and beyond,” said Jamie Coatsworth, chair, Cross Country Ski de Fond Canada. “We were fortuitous our leadership opportunity aligned with Shane’s availability, in order to move quickly and get him on board to lead our passionate staff. Shane is a proven performer in sport and business, and is driven to succeed in steering our sport’s future.”

In 2007, Pearsall played an instrumental role in connecting Cross Country Ski de Fond Canada with one of its premier, and longstanding, corporate partners in AltaGas.

“I learned a great deal while working in the corporate sector, and value the knowledge gained during this time, but I never lost touch with sport,” said Pearsall. “Sport has become big business, and has many synergies with the corporate sector. Success starts within our own walls. It is critical we work together as a tight-knit community who is aligned and believes in the brand, are committed to the long-term strategic goals, and are relentless in our pursuit of excellence if we truly want to create more Olympic and Paralympic champions for Canada in cross-country skiing, and in turn put more kids on snow. I am absolutely honoured to have the opportunity to join the Nordic community.”

Working with Cross Country Ski de Fond’s network of provincial sport partners, Pearsall is committed to leading a continued focus on delivering the tools athletes and coaches – from the grassroots to elite levels – need to ski onto the podium.

He will take over the reigns of the governing body for cross-country skiing in Canada in the New Year from Pierre Lafontaine, who announced recently he would be returning to his native Ottawa to lead Cycling Canada.

“Shane and Pierre have tremendous respect for one another, and are already working together to ensure a seamless transition in our leadership,” added Coatsworth. “Our sport is in good hands, and I am looking forward to celebrating many milestones in our continued progress with Shane leading the charge.”

Nov. 25 Roundup: Canadian Olympian Donald Farley Dies; Northug Out for Ruka

Canada's Donald Farley racing at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games (CCC file photo)

Canada’s Donald Farley racing at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games (CCC file photo)

– The nordic ski community is mourning the loss of Canadian Olympian Donald Farley, who passed away unexpectedly on Nov. 19. Farley, 46, was an 11-year member of the Canadian national team between 1992 and 2002, according to Cross Country Canada (CCC). A two-time Olympian (Nagano 1998 and Salt Lake City 2002) and five-time World Championships competitor, he was one of the most decorated skiers of all time at Canadian nationals, where he accumulated 23 titles, 10 second-place finishes, and two third places. While he was a full-time national team member, he was able to achieve a degree in science at the University of Waterloo. CCC obtained a quote from one of his Olympic teammates, Robin McKeever:

My best memories of Donald was working as a team going into the 1997 World Champs in Trondheim with him. He was at a high level as a teammate that season as we were trying to qualify for the 1998 Nagano Olympics. He came through leading the relay there after 5km and still tagged off to me in touch with the lead in 6th. It was an amazing race for the team and he was the pure leader that season. And yes, he was a crazy hard worker and every workout was like it was the Olympic 10km classic, which Don considered the toughest race.”

– There won’t necessarily be more tests, but the offenses for dopers will be tougher, International Ski Federation (FIS) Secretary General Sarah Lewis recently told Langrenn. While the number of tests taken will remain about the same as previous years, FIS plans to test more in-competition blood samples, Lewis explained. The federation is also aiming for more testing at local training sessions, since it can be expensive and time consuming to test at the more remote locations. “Everyone should feel confident that FIS testing program will make it very difficult to cheat,” Lewis said. “We are very confident that those who dare to try, will be revealed.”

– Petter Northug will not be starting this weekend at the World Cup in Ruka, Finland. “He is perfectly healthy, but feels he does not have enough energy to perform well this weekend,” a Norwegian team press release stated. According to Langrenn, Northug has done a good amount of training in Val Senales, but has not produced the results he was hoping for during the season-opening races in Beitostølen. In the 15 k classic, Northug finished 74th, four minutes behind Didrik Tønseth, who also won the 15 k skate the next day, when Northug finished 15th. Northug will be targeting Lillehammer, Norway, as his first World Cup race.

“Lillehammer is the main weekend points-wise in the World Cup before Christmas and I have been trying to ‘time’ the shape a bit [for that],” Northug said.

Pål Golberg will take Northug’s place in Saturday’s World Cup opening classic sprint while Simen Hegstad Krüger will race the 15 k classic in Northug’s absence on Sunday.

– There will be some important changes for the 2016/2017 FIS World Cup season, according to Langrenn. The first major change will be start quotas, which are now based on the women’s and men’s Nation Cup standings from last season. The quotas will be valid for the whole season and there are no special quota rules for the Tour de Ski or World Cup Finals. The number of additional quota have been reduced. The overall World Cup winner and Continental Cup winner from the previous season are awarded starts in addition to the team quota.

Also, the way the nation rankings are calculated has been modified as well. In individual competitions, only top-three results will be taken into account. In the past, it was all the athletes who scored World cup points. One team per nation in relays and team sprints will score as well.

Finally, the last major change is the maximum pole length for classic races, which must not exceed 83% of the competitors body height. In freestyle races, the maximum pole height is 100 percent of the competitor’s height (i.e., poles can’t be taller than the athlete).

– The Visma Ski Classics series opens this weekend on Sunday, Nov. 27, with a prologue in Pontresina, Switzerland, and fans can follow the action with the newly launched Ski Classics Play app, a video platform for web, Apple TV, iOS and Android.

“Fans can become a member through Season [39.99 Euro], Monthly [7.99 Euro] or Day Passes [4.99 Euro] and get access to Visma Ski Classics live HD feed from all races the upcoming season as well as to interviews and historical videos,” a press release stated. “The idea with the brand new Ski Classics Play plattform is to build a digital community for fans through constant updates on the latest Visma Ski Classics news. Members can watch the unique experiences via live streaming and this will eventually include multiple streams and camera angles, remote production capabilities and other innovations to make the live broadcast even more interesting.” The release noted a free trial until Nov. 30.

– Twenty-six adaptive skiers are in Canmore this week, Nov. 24-27, at a development camp for Canada’s Para-Nordic Ski Team.

“As part of an aggressive national recruitment strategy to increase the pool of athletes and coaches in Canada’s Para-Nordic program, Cross Country Ski de Fond Canada will hold its annual development camp for athletes in all classifications who are early in the Paralympic pathway right up to Canada’s best,” a press release explained.

Current national-team members and Paralympic medalists Mark Arendz and Chris Klebl are among some of the big names leading the camp. Many young athletes were introduced to the camp by their local clubs or provincial organizations, and some have been recruited from sports like sledge hockey and para-cycling.

“The camp, which provides an opportunity for athletes and coaches at all levels to train, learn, and work together in an effort to have a positive impact on skill development, will include both on-snow and in classroom sessions over the four-day session,” the release stated.

— Ian Tovell & Alex Kochon

 

Saturday, Sunday Rundown: Top 15’s for Sargent, Patterson in Saariselkä; Ishida Wins in Bruks

 

– Americans Ida Sargent and Caitlin Patterson, Craftsbury Green Racing Project teammates, both landed in the top 15 on Saturday at the International Ski Federation (FIS) classic sprint in Saariselkä, Finland. Sargent (U.S. Ski Team A-team) placed eighth, while Patterson (last season’s U.S. SuperTour winner who will start the season on the World Cup) finished 14th. To start the day, Sargent qualified 13th and Patterson 15th to advance to the heats. Russia’s Elena Soboleva qualified fourth and went on to win the final, ahead of fellow Russians Natalia Matveeva and Natalia Nepryaeva, in second and third, respectively. Russia swept the top four and Germany’s Hanna Kolb placed fifth of out of 44.

Also on Saturday, Russia’s Maxim Vylegzhanin posted his second-straight victory of the weekend, winning the men’s classic sprint final ahead of teammate Alexander Panzhinskiy and Germany’s Sebastian Eisenlauer, who placed second and third, respectively. Vylegzhanin initially qualified 14th, 10.31 seconds behind another Russian Nikolay Morilov while Eisenlauer and Panzhinskiy qualified second (+1.77) and third (+2.34), respectively. Morilov went on to place seventh overall out of 62.

For the final day of Saariselkä’s three-day series, Germany’s Nicole Fessel won the women’s 10 k freestyle in 28:46.8. She was 38.1 seconds clear of runner-up Yulia Tchekaleva, of Russia, who won Friday’s 5 k classic to start the weekend. Germany had two on the podium with Victoria Carl in third (+41.1). Seventy-four women competed, but Sargent and Patterson were not among them.

Russia once again dominated the men’s 15 k freestyle on Sunday, with Andrey Melnichenko leading his teammates to the podium in 36:21.6. Andrey Larkov was 18.4 seconds back in second, and Russia’s third man Artem Maltsev finished 27.1 seconds back from Melnichenko. Evgeniy Belov took fourth (+39.9) for Russia, and Germany’s Florian Notz broke up the sweep in fifth (+51.7). In the men’s field, 104 finished.

Results: Women’s classic sprint | Men’s classic sprint | Women’s 10 k freestyle | Men’s 15 k freestyle

 

Masako Ishida has still got it, Japan’s leading skier proved Saturday in Bruksvallarna, Sweden. After turning 36 earlier this month and finishing 10th in the 5 k freestyle opener in Bruksvallarna on Friday, Ishida beat out 67 other women in Saturday’s 10 k classic, winning by 31 seconds in 31:24.1. Sweden’s Anna Haag placed second and Saturday’s winner, 19-year-old Ebba Andersson of Sweden took third (+35.8).

In the men’s 15 k classic, Sweden’s 2013 and 2015 world champion Johan Olsson bested teammate Marcus Hellner, who won Friday’s 10 k freestyle, by 5.4 seconds, winning in 40:31.6. More than a minute behind Olsson, Jens Burman completed the Swedish podium sweep in third (+1:02.5) out of 170 finishers.

On Sunday, Calle Halfvarsson beat out his Swedish teammates in the men’s classic sprint, winning the final ahead of Teodor Peterson in second and Oskar Svensson in third. Halvarsson also won the qualifier to start the day with 125 men competing.

In the women’s classic sprint, Sweden’s Hanna Falk emerged as the overall winner after qualifying third (out of 58) and topping the final. She outlasted teammate Stina Nilsson, the fastest in the qualifier, and 22-year-old Maja Dahlqvist, also of Sweden.

Results: Women’s 10 k classic | Men’s 15 k classic | Men’s classic sprint | Women’s classic sprint 

 

– FasterSkier was on site for the Beitostølen FIS races all weekend in Norway. In her first race back since March 2015, Marit Bjørgen pulled out an 11-second win in the 10 k freestyle on Saturday, and another Norwegian national-team member, Didrik Tønseth won his second straight on the weekend. Stay tuned for Sunday’s report.

Friday Rundown: Harvey Wins Davos Sprint; Hellner Goes Big in Bruks

Canada's Alex Harvey (l) leads Switzerland's Jovian Hediger (r) and others in a heat during a preseason classic sprint on Nov. 18 in Davos, Switzerland. (Photo: NORDIC-ONLINE.CH)

Canada’s Alex Harvey (l) leads Switzerland’s Jovian Hediger (r) and others in a heat during a preseason classic sprint on Nov. 18 in Davos, Switzerland. (Photo: NORDIC-ONLINE.CH)

(Note: This race rundown has been updated with comments from Canadian World Cup Team member Alex Harvey.)

– While it wasn’t an International Ski Federation (FIS) race, Canada’s Alex Harvey won a classic sprint in Davos, Switzerland, on Friday, posting the fourth-fastest time out of 34 men in the prologue, then reaching the final in the King’s-Court-style heats. In the final, he nipped Swiss runner-up Jovian Hediger at the line and bested Swiss national-team favorite Dario Cologna, who placed third, by 2 seconds. Erwan Käser, also of Switzerland, rounded out the four-man final in fourth, finishing 3 seconds after Harvey.

“I’ve been working a lot of the Summer to get my sprint level back,” Harvey wrote in an email. “Especially in classic and double poling, which is an area I feel used to be one of my strengths but that I struggled in last season.”

Canada's Alex Harvey en route to a win in his first race of the season: a classic sprint in Davos, Switzerland on Friday, Nov. 18. (Photo: NORDIC-ONLINE.CH)

Canada’s Alex Harvey en route to a win in his first race of the season: a classic sprint in Davos, Switzerland on Friday, Nov. 18. (Photo: NORDIC-ONLINE.CH)

The qualifier took place early in the morning, making it “hard to get the body firing up on all cylinders with jet lag and all but it was still a pretty decent effort,” he added.

In his first time racing a King’s Court format (which guarantees each racer more heats), he noted that it was pretty fun. In the quarterfinal, he raced against the top-three qualifiers — Hediger, Cologna and Käser — and led them for most of the second half of the heat.

“But [the course] kind of finished with a little 180° turn and then a short steep uphill and Jovian opted to run outside the track there and just blew by me!” Harvey recalled. “In the semi, kind of the same deal but with Josef Wenzl [of Germany] in there instead of Dario. I lead for the 2nd half and Jovian, once again, bested me on the last little pitch. That’s when I realized why he was going so much faster then me…by just runing outside the track.”

In the final Harvey took the lead at the halfway point but changed his strategy for the final hill. This time, he ran outside the track and kept his lead all the way to the finish.

“Overall it’s a good day at the office,” Harvey wrote, noting this his biggest goal was to “dial” his race-morning routing.

“I think I can do better for how I prepare for the qualifier but otherwise I’m right on point,” he wrote.

On the women’s side, Canadian-born Swiss skier Heidi Widmer finished eighth overall after posting the 11th-ranked time in the prologue earlier in the day. Switzerland’s Laurien van der Graaff topped the women’s field of 23, qualifying first then dominating the final ahead of teammate Nadine Fähndrich, who placed second (+2.0), Germany’s Elisabeth Schicho in third (+7.0), and Rachel Imoberdorf (Switzerland) in fourth (+12.0).

Harvey noted he was impressed by the organization of the small race.

“It was like a normal race with a team meeting in the evening, bibs, electronic chip timing, starting gate and everything running on schedule by the minute (this part is to be expected in Switzerland!),” he wrote.

Asked what brought him and his Pierre-Harvey Training Centre teammate (and Canadian U25 Team member) Cendrine Browne and coach Louis Bouchard to Davos, Harvey explained that’s been a longtime plan. For the last several years, they had intended to spend their first 10 days in Europe in Davos, but had to change their plans the last two years because of low snow.

“In the Fall of 2013 (during Sochi Olympic year) I was here for 10 days with Louis and Devon [Kershaw] and we really liked it,” he wrote. “[There is] more natural light so a bit easier to get over jet lag and the 10-day exposure at this altitude made a nice link after the 2 other 3 week altitude camp we had this summer.”

Harvey has historically struggled in Davos, keeping him out of the top 15 in distance races there, except for his ninth place in a 2011 skate sprint.

“It’s clearly one of the worst stop on Tour for me,” he wrote. “I really think the altitude is a big part of the reason. So this year when Christian Flury, a coach on the Swiss team, told Louis that they could guarantee 4-5km by Nov. 1st, we opted for this plan again and were pretty confident that this time we wouldn’t have to change our travel plan the week before coming here like we had to do in the Fall of 2014 and 2015.”

On Friday night, he skied the bottom of the World Cup course (the “snow farming” zone takes place up top). It had grown from 4 k when the Canadians arrived to the complete 7.5 k World Cup course.

“Plus the golf course in the bottom of the valley is packed and rolled so you can skate there — I skied all the way to the base of Sertig a few days ago, that made for a nice longer loop!” Harvey wrote.

Results

 

– Ida Sargent and Caitlin Patterson of the Craftsbury Green Racing Project continued their tour of Finland, racing in the Saariselkä FIS races in a mountainous region of northern Finland. There, Sargent (also a U.S. Ski Team member) placed 19th and Patterson (the overall U.S. SuperTour winner last season) was 23rd in the 5 k classic, finishing roughly 1 minute and 1:07 behind the winner, Russia’s Yulia Tchekaleva. Clocking in at 18:30.4, Tchekaleva beat out a women’s field of 76 and led a Russian sweep of the top three, with Yulia Belorukova in second (+3.1) and Alisa Zhambalova in third (+10.2).

In an email on Thursday, the day before the 5 k, Patterson noted the darkness in Saariselkä and that it had been overcast and snowing the last few days.

“There’s maybe 5-6″ of natural snow to make everything feel wintry, and then the ski trails have a solid base of man-made snow,” she wrote. “It looks like for these races coming up the course is going to include a brutal herringbone pitch up part of a small downhill mountain, but then there are also some really nice stride-able hills. And there are tons of Russians and Belorussians, as well as quite a few Germans, Japanese, and a few others on the start list. It’s an exciting time, to be back in the thick of racing!”

In the men’s 10 k classic, Russia’s Maxim Vylegzhanin took the win in 28:20.8, edging his teammate Stanislav Volzhentsev by 2.7 seconds. Kazakhstan’s Alexey Poltoranin took third (+3.3) in a field of 99 finishers.

Results: Women | Men

 

– In Bruksvallarna, Sweden, 19-year-old Ebba Andersson, of the Swedish club Sellefteaa Skidor, pulled out a victory in the women’s 5 k freestyle in 14:24.9. In Sweden’s first FIS race of the season, she fended off World Cup regulars Hannah Falk by 0.9 seconds, Stina Nilsson by 13.1 seconds, and Anna Haag by 20.8 seconds (who placed second through fourth, respectively). Ninety-six women finished.

In the men’s 10 k freestyle, Sweden’s Marcus Hellner opened his season with a 48.7-second win over runner-up Axel Ekström, who’s nearly a decade younger. Hellner, who turns 31 next Friday, finished in 24:46.3, Ekström took second, and Lukas Bauer of the Czech Republic placed third (+49.8). The men’s field included 249 finishers, making it the biggest FIS race of several taking place around the world on Friday.

Results: Women | Men

 

– FasterSkier was on site for Norway’s first FIS races of the season in Beitostølen. Check out Friday’s race report, complete with comments from American Cambria McDermott and Canadians Madison Fraser, Jack Carlyle, Ryan Jackson, and Joey Foster.

Nov. 18 Roundup: Abramova’s Ban Up Before IBU World Champs; Pellegrino Expected in Ruka

 

  • Ukrainian biathlete Olga Abramova has been banned for one year by the International Biathlon Union (IBU) after a failed drug test containing meldonium. She tested positive at an IBU World Cup event in Germany just nine days after meldonium was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) prohibited list. InsidetheGames reported that WADA had to clarify their stance on the substance as there was confusion earlier this year. Athletes who provided a sample of urine that contained less than five micrograms between Jan. 1 and Feb. 29 were given a “no fault” verdict. Abramova’s sample of meldonium contained 7.3 micrograms, 2.3 micrograms over the limit allowed. She will not be able to compete in six out of the nine World Cup series events, but will return for the 2017 IBU World Championships to take place in Hochfilzen, Austria, on Feb. 8, four days after her ban is lifted. Her best performance was as a member of Ukraine’s relay team who placed third in World Cup races last season. This decision comes after she was provisionally suspended back in February. The time away from the sport she has served in the provisional suspension counts toward her one-year ban.

 

  • Two-time Olympic silver medal winning Russian biathlete Olga Vikukhina has retired from the sport, according to InsidetheGames. Her two Olympic medals came on home snow at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. She was second in the 7.5 k sprint as well as with the 4 x 6 k relay, which lost to Ukraine. She did not compete in the 2015 season at all, and last season, she felt unable to get back to her normal self. “It is no longer possible to return to the original condition,” Vilukhina told InsidetheGames. “I stopped training in October and decided to wrap up my sport career. I’m eternally grateful to all those who helped me achieve this success, my family and friends, each of the coaches with whom I have had the privilege to work, all sports leaders with whom we were preparing for the Olympics in Sochi, partners and sponsors who helped me in professional sports and, of course, each and every one of the fans.”

 

  • Italy’s Federico Pellegrino has reason to be smiling after three days of extra training in Davos, Switzerland. The 2015/2016 overall FIS World Cup sprint champion injured an adductor muscle on his left leg, which put his season start in doubt. According to fisi.org, he is expected to be at the start of the opening stage in Kuusamo, Finland, where he will compete in the classic sprint. “Of course I do not feel 100 percent at the moment, but I have managed to do good laps on the track, alternating with the treatments,” Pellegrino told FISI. “On Thursday I will have an ultrasound, and I am very confident of being present in the Ruka sprint, where finally we will have a comparison with the competition.”

 

  • American Oksana Masters is 100-percent committed to nordic skiing and biathlon after competing in handcycling at the Rio Paralympics.“The transition from cycling to skiing is extremely challenging especially in such a short time,” she told the International Paralympic Committee. “In my opinion cross-country skiing is so much harder than cycling. Although cycling helped me maintain my endurance [and] fitness, I have lost all of my ski specific strength.”A relative rookie in handcycling, she began seriously training for the summer sport five months before the Rio Games. There in Brazil, she placed fifth in the time trial. “Handcycling is mainly a push motion and the pulling is so different that it’s really not similar to skiing pulling motion,” she said. “This season is going to be not just a physical challenge but also a mental challenge of accepting that I am starting this season from a different form of fitness.”Even while committing wholeheartedly to cycling for Rio, her heart has been set on the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, for the last couple years. “PyeongChang has always been my main goal. I have had my eyes set on PyeongChang since the last day in Sochi 2014,” Masters said. “I can’t believe it is already less than 500 days away. I know it is going to be a really challenging shooting range because everything is so open and exposed to the wind which means anything can happen, so this year I am trying to really focus on my biathlon.”

 

  • One of the greatest skiers in the world will rejoin Alpina ski boots. Petter Northug, who has won eleven World Championships and an Olympic Gold under the Alpina brand will re-ride them for the 2017 World Cup seasons. “I contacted Alpina because they are passionate about ski boots. They work to develop even better products- it shows when you have boots on feet up to 30 hours a week,” Northug said. According to langd.se, Alpina differs from the other major suppliers since they only focus on the development of boots. The partnership with Alpina means that Northug also will have a partnership with Rottefella. Northug will join his little brother Even, who also is with Alpina.

— Ian Tovell

Nov. 10 Roundup: Fletcher Bros on ‘The Frynge’; Mäkäräinen Preps for XC World Champs

— U.S. Nordic Combined A-teamers and brothers Bryan and Taylor Fletcher are the center of a monthlong campaign on ‘The Frynge’, a website dedicated to raising money and exposure for athletes in “action, adventure & Olympic sports” outside the mainstream. Nordic combined is one of those sports. The Frynge offers 10 brands of products and donates 10 percent of proceeds from all sales. For the month of November, those donations will go to the Fletchers.

“With just about three months until the 2017 World Championships and 16 months until the next Olympics in South Korea, we need your help now more than ever,” the Fletchers wrote in a letter on their campaign page. “Over the next month you will learn just how much goes into Nordic combined to reach the top. Funding, however, is our biggest limiting factor. Each competition jump suit lasts around 30-50 jumps and costs nearly $350. A good suit can add as much as 10 meters to your jump. A 10-meter difference is about 1.5 minutes’ difference in start time when it comes to the cross country portion of the sport. Ultimately that is the difference between winning and losing. Suits are not our only expense however, as travel, lodging, living & school expenses all add up. By purchasing from The Frynge you will help alleviate some of those financial hurdles allowing us to focus on achieving gold in the big event!”

— Biathlon in Georgia? It’s happening, according to prime minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, who recently revealed that an Olympic-standard biathlon track will be constructed in the ski-resort area of Bakuriani, along with an ice-hockey venue. InsidetheGames reported that the country is investing 796,500 Georgian Lari (GEL) (roughly $330,200 U.S. dollars) in the biathlon venue. About 30 kilometers from Bakuriani, the resort town of Borjomi has also been earmarked for Olympic facilities as Georgia hopes to one day host a Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games. The country with a population of 3.75 million (about at third of the population of the U.S. state of Georgia) has yet to win a Winter Olympic medal.

— The Norwegian Birkebeinerrennet, or Norwegian Birkie or “Birken” for short, has seen declining participation since 2014 and thus less revenue, DN.no reports. Based on the last two years, organizers anticipate the 54-kilometer race will draw 10 million Kroner (roughly $1.46 million) less in 2017 compared to 2016. Since the beginning of this year, the Norwegian Birkie has reduced its staff from “18 or 19” employees to 16, and will continue to rely heavily on volunteers. On a positive note, the 2017 Birken is scheduled for March 18, well ahead of Easter, which has attracted an average of 1,500 more participants in the past.

— Finnish biathlon world champion Kaisa Mäkäräinen hopes to compete in cross-country skiing’s 2017 Lahti World Championships in her home nation in February, Neveitalia reports. She has acknowledged that Finland’s cross-country team is very strong and she hopes to secure her spot on the team at those championships. Lahti World Championships (Feb. 22-March 5) follow the IBU World Championships in Hochfilzen, Austria (Feb. 8-19), and overlap with the IBU World Cup in PyeongChang, South Korea — the site of the 2018 Winter Olympics. Mäkäräinen, 33, plans to continue competing in biathlon through the 2018 Olympics, she announced in a Facebook press conference in April.

“[I] shall devote a hard summer training, then in autumn I will check if I feel strong enough to try to earn a place in this event [Lahti World Championships] as well as Hochfilzen, to which I look with great affection, because 2005 was my first World Cup ,” she said, according to a rough translation.

In 2014, Mäkäräinen placed ninth in a 10 k freestyle at the cross-country World Cup in Lahti. She has two national titles in the 10 k freestyle event, in 2013 and 2014.

— Three of the world’s top marathon skiers will compete in the Red Bull Nordenskiöld Race,  “the world’s longest and toughest ski race”, according to Langde.se, which takes place north of the Arctic Circle in northern Sweden on April 15, 2017. This will be the second-straight year of the resurrected 220 k race, with origins dating back to 1884. The 2017 race is capped at 500 racers, and Norway’s defending champion John Kristian Dahl, runner-up Anders Aukland, and Sweden’s fourth-place finisher from last year Jörgen Brink will be in the hunt for the overall win.

— Ian Tovell and Alex Kochon

Snowfarm Racing Kicks off in Europe

It’s not just Frozen Thunder: international racing also kicked off in Europe over the weekend. Finland kicked things off in Vuokatti with Finnish Cup races.

In Saturday’s sprints, Anne Kyllönen bested Andrea Julin in the final. Hanna Varjus was relegated to last in the final for interference, leaving Ann-Mary Ähtävä in third.

“It’s good exercise, I got to go four times around the track at a hard pace for skiing,” Kyllönen told Kestävyys Urheilu. The World Cup veteran finished as high up as fifth in the Sprint Cup standings back in 2013, but has evolved into a stronger all-around skier recently, ranking tenth in the overall World Cup last season.

22-year-old Julin has had a few World Cup starts but is still seeking her first trip to the sprint quarterfinals.

@annekyllonen sai #schiihto-avauksessa onnistuneen harjoituksen. Voittajan mietteet Facebookissamme. Onnea! #vuokatti #sprintti

A photo posted by Hiihdon Suomen Cup (@hiihdonsuomencup) on

In the men’s sprint, Matias Strandvall edged Ristomatti Hakola in the final ahead of Lauri Vuorinen. World Cup regulars Toni Ketelä, Anssi Pentsinen, and Christoffer Lindvall rounded out the final. Strandvall, a perennial top-10 threat in World Cup sprints, and Hakola battled the whole way, pulling away from the field early on. But Strandvall dropped Hakola on the final climb to ski to the finish with a clear win. “Ristomatti tried to strike at the very beginning…. I struck when the time was ripe,” Strandvall said.

In Sunday’s relays – 3 x 4 k for women and 3 x 6 k for men – more stars came out, like Riita-Liisa Roponen, Laura Mononen, Ville Nousiainen, and Martti Jylhä.

Sprint results: men / women

Relay results: men / women

In Switzerland, the saved-snow loop in Davos opened on Saturday with sprint races amongst the country’s elite skiers. Jöri Kindschi topped the men’s field over Roman Furger and Dario Cologna, all of the Swiss National team. Tatiana Stiffler of Schweizerischer Akademischer Skiclub (SAS) was the top woman, beating out Delphine Claudel of France and Rahel Imobersdorf, also of SAS.

The loop is four kilometers and has attracted the likes of German biathlete Laura Dahlmeier.

You can take a video tour of the “snowfarming” loop on the Davos Nordic Facebook page.

Outside Ranks Nordic Skiing ‘World’s Toughest Outdoor Sport’

What is the toughest outdoor sport in the world? In the minds of most nordic skiers, cross-country skiing takes the top spot. But how might non-nordic athletes rank it?

In a recent article by Outside Magazine, author Dan Roe outlined the top five toughest outdoor athletic activities in the world: rock climbing, downhill mountain biking, ultrarunning, nordic skiing, and open-water swimming. These sports were chosen based on the degree of difficulty they take to master, the risk factor involved with competing in each, and the amount of skill/fitness that is required to perform each activity.

Using peer-reviewed research, Roe then compared numbers on calories burned per hour, average number of injuries per 1,000 hours, and fatality rates for each sport. Finally, Roe interviewed professionals within each sport, asking them what makes their sport so challenging and to vote for one of the five athletic activities — outside of their own — that they viewed as the most difficult.

Just how did nordic skiing stack up in the eyes of other world-class athletes and Outside mag? All in all, nordic skiing was voted the toughest sport in the world, with athletes burning an average of 952 calories per hour (the second highest number of the five sports, just five calories short of open-water swimming), participants sustaining injuries at a rate of 30 per 1,000 hours (also the second highest), and the third highest fatality rate at 11 per 1 million participants.

American ultrarunning living legend, Scott Jurekauthor of the New York Times bestseller ‘Eat and Run‘, voted for cross-country skiing and told Outside, “Nordic skiing came to my mind right away. There’s nothing like it in terms of the feeling when you’re floating along, to grind up the uphills and cover the terrain. I think Nordic skiing is the most taxing workout.”

According to Outside’s verdict, nordic skiing was the winner:

“For our money, this is the toughest sport,” the article states. “It requires the endurance of ultrarunning, the sprint speed of mountain biking, the mental toughness of open water swimming, and, at times, can put skiers in situations of real exposure. And at 952 calories per hour, competitive nordic skiers burn the equivalent of a Chipotle burrito every hour. To be successful, athletes must maintain unparalleled cardiovascular fitness in addition to muscular strength and coordination.”

Rock climbing ranked second overall, followed by open-water swimming in third, downhill mountain biking in fourth and ultrarunning in fifth.

Both Sophie Caldwell and Kikkan Randall of the U.S. Ski Team were interviewed for the article. Caldwell voted for ultrarunning, while Randall opted for open-water swimming.

“I would have to think that open-water swimming is pretty challenging, because you are so vulnerable, and regulating your body temperature in the water can be really challenging,” Randall told Outside.

WADA Publishes 2017 Prohibited List; Changes to Asthma Rules

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has published its 2017 Prohibited List, to go into effect on January 1.

Among the changes from the 2016 Prohibited List is a shift in the language governing the use of salbutamol, an inhaled medication used to treat asthma, and other drugs of its class (called beta-2 agonists).

“Dosing parameters of salbutamol were refined to make it clear that the full 24 hour dose should not be administered at one time,” WADA wrote in a guide listing the changes from the 2016 Prohibited List.

The new rule keeps the maximum allowable does at 1,600 micrograms over 24 hours, but additionally specifies that only 800 micrograms can be taken in any 12-hour period.

Salbutamol is the medication which led to a suspension of Norwegian skier Martin Johnsrud Sundby. Sundby nebulized 15 milligrams — or 15,000 micrograms — of the medication in a five-hour period in Davos, Switzerland, in 2014 and Toblach, Italy, in 2015.

As a result, Sundby’s urine samples from the two races in question both had over 1,300 ng/mL of salbutamol, well over the WADA limit of 1,000 ng/mL. That limit, which WADA considers “not to be an intended therapeutic use of the substance”, is unchanged in the 2017 Prohibited List.

The Norwegian national team apparently also prescribed asthma medication to healthy athletes. The medications are allowable up to a certain dose, but high doses are prohibited.

WADA’s Senior Manager of Media Relations, Ben Nichols, told Norway’s NRK broadcaster that while taking such drugs without a diagnosis of asthma was not against anti-doping rules, WADA considered it “inappropriate”.

So perhaps not surprisingly, asthma medications are under scrutiny. The use of multiple beta-2 agonists at the same time was added to the “Monitoring List”, meaning that WADA wishes to track the practice and may add it to a future Prohibited List. The metabolic modulator meldonium, for example, was included on the Monitoring List before being moved to the 2016 Prohibited List. Over 100 athletes subsequently had positive tests.

All the beta-2 agonists can still be used with an approved Therapeutic Use Exemption.

The 2017 Prohibited List also includes changes to the listings of some anabolic steroids, growth factors, and metabolic modulators, stimulants, and narcotics.

“It is vital that all athletes take the necessary time to consult the List; and that, they contact their respective anti-doping organizations (ADOs) if they have any doubts as to the status of a substance or method,” WADA Director General Olivier Niggli said in a press release.

The WADA code now explicitly allows the use of inhaled oxygen, something which has been discussed in the cross-country ski world as it has been used extensively by teams such as Finland.

“Supplemental oxygen administered by inhalation, but not intravenously, is permitted. To clarify this, M1.2 now reads ‘excluding supplemental oxygen by inhalation’,” WADA wrote in their guideline document.

Sundby Decides Against Doping Appeal

An elated Martin Johnsrud Sundby of Norway crosses the finish line at the top of Alpe Cermis to wrap up his second consecutive Tour de Ski title in Val di Fiemme, Italy, in 2015. He lost that title for a doping violation. (Photo: (Photo: Val di Fiemme/www.fiemmeworldcup.com)

An elated Martin Johnsrud Sundby of Norway crosses the finish line at the top of Alpe Cermis to wrap up his second consecutive Tour de Ski title in Val di Fiemme, Italy, in 2015. He lost that title for a doping violation. (Photo: (Photo: Val di Fiemme/www.fiemmeworldcup.com)

Norwegian cross-country skier Martin Johnsrud Sundby has decided not to appeal a two-month suspension he received for using a high dose of asthma medicine.

Sundby’s suspension came from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), and he was considering an appeal to the Swiss Supreme Court. It is unusual for sports-related cases which reach the CAS level to be brought into federal courts afterwards.

“The important thing for me was to find out if the possibility existed, because I’m not a lawyer and I had no clue,” he told Norway’s NRK broadcaster.

He revealed that after consulting with Swiss lawyers, it did not seem like he had a good chance of winning an appeal. Any case he brought to the Swiss Supreme Court would have been based on procedure, not on the facts of the case. Sundby said that he decided against an appeal because he did not wish to drag the process out longer.

It is unclear whether he also faced pressure from his own country. The Norwegian Ski Federation publicly backed him, as their team doctor had prescribed the asthma medication and the federation believed that in doing so, no rules were broken.

But 2014 Olympic slalom medalist Henrik Kristofferson recently told NRK that he found the rampant use of asthma medication by his country’s cross-country skiers “comical” and that Norway should clean up their own house before pointing fingers at Russia or Finland over doping allegations.

Then, Norwegian Minister of Culture Linda Hofstad Helleland, in supporting the work of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), said that Sundby’s case was proof that the system worked.

“If someone is in a gray area, then it has to be taken seriously,” she told VG. “It cannot be trivialized.”

Sundby’s sentence was clear, she said, and “then we have to deal with it.”

Sundby has now finished his suspension, but the lasting mark on his resumé will be nullified results from two competitions, which ultimately cost him the 2015 Tour de Ski and overall World Cup titles.

U.S. Takes First in Every Race at New Zealand Nationals

Left to right: Americans Ben Saxton, Andrew Newell and Simi Hamilton along with Korea's Hwang Jun Ho on the start line for the FIS ANC men's sprint classic final on Friday at the Snow Farm ski resort in New Zealand. (Photo: Snow Farm NZ)

(Front row, left to right): Americans and SMST2 skiers Ben Saxton, Andy Newell and Simi Hamilton along with South Korea’s Hwang Jun-Ho on the start line for the FIS ANC men’s sprint classic final on Friday, Sept. 9, at the Snow Farm ski resort in New Zealand. (Photo: Snow Farm NZ)

Three days of elite cross-country ski racing took place this past weekend at the Snow Farm ski resort near Wananka, New Zealand, during New Zealand National Cross-Country Ski Championships, with the U.S. Ski Team (USST) taking first in every race and taking up most of the remaining spots on the podium.

Friday, Sept. 9, saw 22 athletes from Australia, Korea and the U.S. compete in the race series’ first competition, a classic sprint.

Dominating the men’s classic sprint was USST veteran Andy Newell, who qualified first with a time of 3:37.69 and continued to dominate through the rounds for the win. Finishing in second behind Newell was South Korea’s Hwang Jun-Ho, and taking the final podium spot in third was Ben Saxton, Newell’s teammate on the Stratton Mountain School (SMS) T2 Team.

On the women’s side, all three top spots went to the U.S., with Ida Sargent (USST) edging teammate Jessie Diggins for first and Sophie Caldwell rounding out the podium in third. Caldwell won the qualifier in 3:07.55.

“We love coming down here and getting to race at Snow Farm,” USST Head Coach Chris Grover said, according to a press release. “The timing worked out really well this year because normally we’d be running our own time trials so when a race gets organised and we get to participate in it that’s great.

“It was really nice to have the Korean team here so we had some solid competition,” he added. “It was beautiful weather, beautiful tracks and everyone went out there and had a hard effort so we’re really satisfied.”

International Ski Federation (FIS) points were awarded to the top contenders.

Results: Women’s Qualifier | Men’s Qualifier | Women’s Final | Men’s Final

***

On Saturday, Sept. 10, athletes returned to the Snow Farm for the 10 and 15 k classic mass starts.

Snow Farm founder and trustee Mary Lee greets winner American Jessie Diggins (center) after she won the women's 10 k classic mass start ahead of teammates Ida Sargent (l) and Sophie Caldwell (r). (Photo: Snow Farm NZ)

Snow Farm founder and trustee Mary Lee (r) greets Saturday’s 10 k classic mass start winner Jessie Diggins (second from l) after she held off teammates Ida Sargent (l) in second and Sophie Caldwell (r) in third. (Photo: Snow Farm NZ)

In the women’s 10 k, Diggins crossed the line first in 30:58.4, beating Sargent by 7.4 seconds, while Caldwell took third for the second-straight day, 13.8 seconds after Diggins.

“Normally striding on a really steep hill isn’t a particular strength of mine so it was nice to embrace the climb and say, ‘OK this is where I’m going to try to make a move’ and try to make it stick,’ ” Diggins told race organizers, according to a press release. “It was fun to just try something a little out of my normal range!”

Newell took his second win of the weekend, topping the men’s 15 k in 38:12.2. Saxton followed 11.4 seconds later for second place, just ahead of Noah Hoffman (USST) in third (+13.7).

“With the mass start, everyone got to ski together for most of the race,” Grover told USSA. “It was a great opportunity for athletes to try to make breaks and for others to reel them in. It was also an opportunity for each athlete to measure their relative technique strengths and weaknesses against the bigger group through different technique features — for example, who is skiing the downhills more aggressively, who is stronger in the double pole, who is stronger in the striding.”  

Results: Women | Men

***

Simi Hamilton racing to first in the men's 10 k freestyle at New Zealand nationals on Sunday, Sept. 11, at the Snow Farm in Wanaka, New Zealand. (Photo: Snow Farm NZ)

Simi Hamilton racing to first in the men’s 10 k freestyle at New Zealand nationals on Sunday, Sept. 11, at the Snow Farm in Wanaka, New Zealand. (Photo: Snow Farm NZ)

The final day of competition for the three-day race series at the Snow Farm included the 5/10 k freestyle interval starts.

In the men’s 10 k, Hamilton took first, completing the course in 26:08. Rounding out the rest of the podium were two South Korean skiers, Yong-Jin Cho, who finished 17 seconds off Hamilton’s time in second, and Hwang Jun-Ho, 38 seconds back in third.

“This time of year it’s important to remind yourself how to prepare for a race mentally and how to attack during it,” Hamilton told race organizers. “So it was great to be out there and think about pacing and hurting really bad. It’s good to revisit that at this time of year so we can be ready for the [Northern Hemisphere] winter.”

The women’s 5 k went to Liz Stephen (USST) who beat her competition by nearly 50 seconds in 13:28. Lee Chae-won of South Korea finished 49 seconds back in second place, and Australian Aimee Watson placed third (+1:18). 

Stephen told organizers that getting back on snow was one of the most positive aspects of their visit.

“We can get as fit as we want in the summer on roller skis, but it doesn’t transfer exactly and the technique work here for me has been really important,” she said.

Results: Men | Women

Aug. 22 Roundup: Toppidrettsveka Recap; Denmark’s Vasaloppet Qualifier

— While Norway’s nordic superstar Therese Johaug was out sick, her Norwegian teammate Heidi Weng walked away with two victories on the first day of the Toppidrettsveka, a rollerski competition held in Aure and Trondheim, Norway. Weng won the women’s 24-kilometer classic mass start by 3 minutes and 51 seconds over runner-up and fellow Norwegian, Emilie Kristoffersen, and Silje Øyre Slind in third. Weng also won the second race of the day, a classic sprint, out-lunging the prologue winner, Kathrine Harsem of Norway and Polina Kovaleva of Russia in third. Weng’s third and final victory came in the 5 k classic. See complete Toppidrettsveka results here.

— On the men’s side, it was Norway’s Gaute Kvåle who won the men’s 24 k classic mass start on the first day of the Toppidrettsveka. He won by 4.5 seconds over France’s Jean-Marc Gaillard, while Andrey Melnichenko of Russia finished in third, 6.7 seconds back. Kvåle told Langrenn that he took it too easy at the beginning of the race on the steepest part of the course. He found himself around 25th place, but worked his way to the front of the field. The second victory of the day went to Norwegian Pål Trøan Aune, while his Norwegian teammates Emil Iversen and Petter Northug placed second and third, respectively.

— Day 2 of racing saw the men’s freestyle sprint, which went to Norway’s Kasper Stadås. Northug finished in second, while his Norwegian teammate and younger brother Even Northug also finished on the podium in third. The women’s freestyle sprint winner was Barbro Kvåle, also from Norway. Slovenia’s Anamarija Lampic and Vesna Fabjan took second and third, respectively.

— On the final day of the Toppidrettsveka, Northug topped the men’s 15 k pursuit, finishing three seconds ahead of fellow Norwegian Mattis Stenshagen.  Northug told Adressa that he felt like he was in complete control, and his goal is to be “in shape and compete for medals at Lahti World Championships.” Norway’s Mikael Gunnulfsen took third.

— On Sept. 18, Denmark will host a 45 k roller ski competition in Holte, which will also serve as a seeding race for Swede’s Vasaloppet for the first time. Holte Ski Club Organizer Poul Erik Holm told Langd that the course will be completely closed to traffic and is slightly hilly “with nice asphalt.” 

— The Foothills Nordic Ski Club is looking to raise $65,000 dollars by Oct. 15 in hopes of funding a full snowmaking setup. Foothills Nordic is based out of Calgary and it has estimated that the snowmaking equipment would support over 210,000 Calgary cross-country skiers. Donations can be made via GoFundMe.com or by letter.

Blink Festival Concludes; Nordgren Reaches Biathlon Shootout Final

U.S. Biathlon’s Leif Nordgren competes in the final of the “shooting duels” competition during the 2016 Blink Skifestivalen, where he placed 11th. Photo: NRK broadcast

US Biathlon’s Leif Nordgren competes in the final of the “shooting duels” competition during the 2016 Blink Skifestivalen, where he placed 11th on Friday, June 29.

(Note: This article has been updated to include comments from American Leif Nordgren.)

Friday’s mass starts

For the third day of the 2016 Blink Skifestivalen on Friday, the small road show of elite Norwegian and international cross-country skiers and biathletes moved to the coastal town of Sandnes in the southwest of Norway with a population of 75,000 to compete in a series of rollerski mass start races.

On a one-kilometer loop through the city that included two short climbs over ramps and bridges, the women’s 10 k freestyle mass start race was won by Norway’s Kathrine Harsem in a time of 22:14.1 after creating a small gap to a group of 10 athletes on the final lap. Just 2.7 seconds behind, her teammate Barbro Kvåle beat Germany’s Sandra Ringwald, who was able to secure the third place on the podium (+2.8) in a close sprint.

In rainy conditions, Norway’s Martine Ek Hagen had a pretty nasty fall on the wet asphalt over a small bridge and received attention from medical personnel, but later could be seen walking on her own.

Norway’s Petter Northug Jr. (far right) celebrates as he crosses the line first in the men’s mass start on Friday during the 2016 Blink Skifestivalen in Sandnes, Norway. Photo: NRK broadcast

Norway’s Petter Northug Jr. (far right) celebrates as he crosses the line first in the men’s mass start on Friday during the 2016 Blink Skifestivalen in Sandnes, Norway.

In the men’s 15 k freestyle mass start, local favorite Petter Northug Jr. was victorious in a close finishing sprint in a time of 31:10.3, after already winning the long-distance 60 k “Blink Classics” race earlier in the week. Behind him, Italy’s Francesco de Fabiani placed second (+0.8), and Northug’s teammate Pål Golberg came in third (+0.9).

Northug remained near the top of the field and tried to break away with 5 laps to go, but could not create a significant gap with no other athlete willing or able to help him in the lead.

A field of about 30 athletes stayed close together until the final lap, despite a number of broken poles. On the last pass over a bridge there was a tangle between a few athletes including Switzerland’s former overall World Cup champion Dario Cologna and Finland’s Matti Heikkinen, the winner of the Lysebotn Opp uphill race on Thursday. The rest of the field approached the finish in a mass sprint, with Northug defending his position at the front to the line.

Still, Northug was not completely satisfied with his performance. “I feel like I can be better,” he told Norwegian broadcaster NRK, according to a translation. “I am angered by my own technique, and I know I can go much faster.”

Also on Friday, the spectators attending the Blink festival saw a number of biathlon competitions, both for various junior age groups and the “elite” senior fields.

In a fun pre-race “shooting duels” competition with target practice still in sneakers, Sweden’s Mona Brorsson took the win for the women, while Norway’s Markus Haugum placed first for the men.

American Leif Nordgren reached the men’s final, where he placed 11th after cleaning his targets 16 seconds slower than the winner. His US Biathlon teammate Sean Doherty made it to the quarterfinals.

In the men’s biathlon mass start that followed, both Nordgren and Doherty missed the final, with Nordgren placing 28th (+1:23.6, with one miss) and Doherty 30th  (+1:29.0, with three misses) in the qualifier.

In a mix up, the Blink organizers and NRK labeled Nordgren as starting for Sweden in on-screen graphics and results lists during the events on Friday.

“I feel that I let my new country down today, I will have to try harder tomorrow!!” Nordgren joked on Twitter after the race.

“For both the shooting duel and the supersprint competitions on Friday the organizers made a mistake and labeled me as a Swedish athlete,” Nordgren explained in an email to FasterSkier. “No harm in it and I had a good laugh with the Swedes about it!  Because my name is Swedish anyway there was talk of free agency and signing fees!”

The final with 12 athletes was won by Norway’s Tarjei Bø in a time of 18:02.6 (with two misses), who beat out France’s Simon Desthieux by 1.4 seconds (one miss) and Norway’s Vetle Sjåstad Christiansen in third (+11.2, four misses).

In the women’s biathlon mass start, with a time of 18:17.0 and three missed shots, France’s Anais Chevalier bested her world-famous teammate Marie Dorin-Habert (+3.6, four misses) and Italy’s Dorothea Wierer (+7.6, two misses), who placed second and third, respectively.

The locals missed a few too many targets, especially fan-favorite and star of the last world championships Tiril Eckhoff with nine (11th place, +1:26.8).

“It’s good to win here,” Chevalier told broadcaster NRK in an interview after the race. “It’s a nice race. It was hard, but it’s sunny so that’s good. I am glad to win today. I felt good on skis, pretty much good in shooting, so it’s OK.”

Saturday’s sprints

On the last day of Blink, the athletes stayed in Sandnes to compete in a series of sprints, with some well-known athletes who had already started in multiple events during the week skipping that final challenge.

Norway’s Maiken Caspersen Falla, the reigning Sprint World Cup champion, made up for missing the podium in Friday’s mass start by taking the top spot in the women’s sprint final with a time of 3:51.3, narrowly beating out Ringwald, of Germany, in the finish by 0.3 seconds. Just behind them, another German Denise Herrmann secured third place (+1.5) in an even closer three-way sprint against Norway’s Tiril Udnes Weng (also +1.5) and Slovenia’s Katja Visnar (+1.6). Herrmann announced in April that she was making the switch from cross-country to biathlon, but demonstrated that she still possesses strong sprinting skills.

France’s Richard Jouve was the lone non-Norwegians to reach the men’s sprint final, then managed to make the most of it by beating out his five opponents in a time of 3:27.2. Just as surprising, Kasper Stadaas beat out his more well-known teammates to secure the second place 0.1 seconds behind, with Eirik Brandsdal coming in third place (+0.8), edging Golberg in fourth (+1.0).

In the final biathlon race of the weekend, the sprint final, France went 1-2 with Dorin-Habert taking the win in 7:44.2 (after coming in second a day before). She beat her teammate Anais Bescond by 2 seconds, and Norway’s Marthe Olsbu placed third (+3.6).

Asked if she loves competing in Norway in her winner’s interview, Dorin-Habert nodded. “It was very exciting. There was a lot of people. I think it’s a game.”

Norway’s Vetle Sjåstad Christiansen won the biathlon men’s sprint final in a time of 12:08.3 after placing third on Friday, ahead of his teammate Tore Leren (+2.9) and Sweden’s Frederik Lindström (+3.1).

The Blink festival was a nice comeback for Christiansen, who could not compete with the 2015/2016 Norwegian World Cup team due to a lingering infection. A fourth place in the pursuit at the 2016 European Championships in Tyumen, Russia, stood as his best result.

Doherty placed 12th in his quarterfinal (+2:28.6) and did not advance, while Nordgren narrowly missed the cut placing sixth in his quarterfinal (+42.4) behind the eventual runner-up Leren (who was fifth in that heat).

“It’s been a tough week in the rain at Blink. I think both Sean and I are quite disappointed in the results that we’ve had here,” Nordgren wrote. “The plan all along was just to use these races as training, but even with that as the purpose it’s pretty disheartening to perform how we did.  It’s only July though so there is still so much training to be done this year.

“For myself, the racing scenarios here are totally different from the type of training that I’ve done up to this point,” he continued. “I’ve done a lot of long slow distance training so far, its always been the plan for me to switch to a more high intensity type training starting with these races.  The atmosphere here in Blink is crazy, Norwegians love their biathlon and nordic racing!  Even heavy rain every day of racing didn’t stop them from coming out in droves to cheer.  Part of the benefit of these races is also the quality of competition.  Every quality Norwegian as well as members of the national teams from Italy, Germany, France, Sweden and others makes for stiff competition.”

— Harald Zimmer 

Results

Friday:

Women cross-country mass start

Men cross-country mass start

Women biathlon shootout

Men biathlon shootout

Women biathlon mass start

Men biathlon mass start

Saturday:

Women cross-country sprint

Men cross-country sprint

Women biathlon sprint

Men biathlon sprint

Johaug, Heikkinen Win Blink ‘Lysebotn Opp’; Kershaw 44th, Doherty 70th

2016 Blink Festival in Norway. Norway's Therese Johaug on the 7.5 k climb. Johaug was chased by young fans and won the day. (Photo: Screenshot NRK live feed)

Young fans run along Norway’s Therese Johaug (1) at the 2016 Blink Festival on Thursday in Norway. Johaug won the 7.5 k climb, known as the “Lysebotn opp”.

Mining the internet for international rollerskiing news? Look no further — it’s that time of year: the Blink Ski Festival in Lysebotn and Sandnes, Norway, is underway. What makes this event a blip on the nordic-sport radar are the scores of top-notch Norwegian talent and World Cup biathletes and cross-country skiers racing. Two days into the four-day festival, from July 27-30, some big names are showing good form.

Day 1 featured a 62-kilometer classic rollerski for senior men and women.

Norway’s Petter Northug Jr. placed first in 2:28.13. It was a tight finish for Northug — the top 14 skiers were bunched within nine seconds of one another. Andreas Nygaard (+1.2) and Petter Eliassen (+1.8), also from Norway, placed second and third, respectively.

In the women’s classic rollerski race, also 62 k, only four women contested the elite women’s race. Sweden’s Britta Johansson Norgren won in a time of 2:56.21. Astrid Øyre Slinde, of Norway, was second (+3:45.2), and Japanese skiers Masako Ishida and Yuki Kobayashi placed third (+19:17.5) and fourth (+25:15), respectively.

Day 2 of the festival, featured an event with a bit more pizazz and World Cup depth: a mass start, 7.5 k uphill skate rollerski. For the women, Norwegian dynamo Therese Johaug set the standard, winning in 33:03. Her teammate Heidi Weng (the hill climb’s 2015 champion) placed second, finishing 1:55 back. Germany’s Nicole Fessel was third (+3:41). The race included 66 competitors. No North American women started.

The men raced the same 7.5 k hill-climb course. Finnish cross-country skier Matti Heikkinen defended his 2015 title in 28:02 — 9.5 seconds slower than his winning time last year. Norwegian biathlete Tarjei Bø skied to second, 53 seconds behind Heikkinen. Norway’s Simen Andreas Sveen rounded out the podium in third (+1:02). Russia’s Alexander Legkov was fourth (+1:14), followed in fifth by Swiss star Dario Cologna (+1:21).

Two North Americans contested the uphill race. Canada’s Devon Kershaw placed 44th (+3:55) and US Biathlon’s Sean Doherty placed 70th (+5:14). Day 1 winner, Northug finished 77th (+5:52) of 90 men.

Results:

Day 1 (Blink classic): Men | Women

Day 2 (Lysebotn opp): Men | Women

2016 Blink Festival in Norway. Matti Heikkinen on the 7.5 k climb and on his way to the win. (Photo: Screenshot NRK live feed)

Finland’s Matti Heikkinen racing to the win in Thursday’s 7.5 k climb at the 2016 Blink Festival in Norway.

— Harald  Zimmer contributed reporting

Hall, Wood Spearhead ‘Survey for Ethical Sport’ to Present to IOC, FIS

On Monday, a three-question survey called the “Survey for Ethical Sport“, created by Marty Hall and Dave Wood, former head coaches of the Canadian cross-country ski team, went live online with the technical support of national-team skier Julien Locke.

The idea behind it, is to “spread the word” and send the results to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Ski Federation (FIS), according to Hall, also a former U.S. national team coach.

“We are a group of coaches/athletes that have been directly impacted by cheaters,” the survey states. “We have put together this survey as we believe that everyone’s voice needs to be heard. Sport is in a critical time right now and we are motivated to use our survey findings to make a difference.”

“In this whole process if you think about it, do we ever have anything to say, and who’s this all about?” Hall said. “Whether it’s support personnel or people like myself who have been there and done it and still have a love for the sport, to see how it’s being mistreated, we’re trying to speak out.

“There’s a lot of stuff to clean up in regards to where the medals are, where the money is and how are they [the IOC and FIS] going to get this taken care of with the clean athletes?” he continued.

The survey is three yes-or-no questions with the opportunity to write in comments. Upon submission, it requests a name with the option to include email, location and sport/club as well.

 

Former U.S. Cross-Country Coach, Sven Wiik Dies at 95

Sven Wiik was inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in 1981. (Photo: U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame)

Sven Wiik was inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in 1981. (Photo: U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame)

A coach of the 1960 U.S. Olympic cross-country team in Squaw Valley, Calif., and 1958 World Championships team, Sven Wiik died of natural causes on Tuesday at Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs, Colo., Steamboat Today reported. He was 95.

Among Wiik’s claims to fame — he was a member of the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame as well as the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame — he and coach Marty Hall designed the course for the American Birkebeiner, the largest ski marathon in North America.

Wiik was born in Solleftea, Sweden, on Feb. 27, 1921, and competed at the 1948 London Olympics as a gymnast (a demonstration sport at the time). In 1949, he immigrated to the U.S., initially to Chicago, and was offered a coaching position in Lake Placid, N.Y.

According to Steamboat Today, Gerry Groswold (who would later become the president of Winter Park Ski Area) urged the 28-year-old Wiik to contact Western State College in Gunnison, Colo.

He did and spent the next 19 years as Western State’s ski coach and an assistant professor of health and physical education. Wiik and his wife Birthe (Bitte) moved from Gunnison to Steamboat following the 1960 Winter Olympics. They built the Scandinavian Lodge, and their daughter Birgitta Lindgren and granddaughter Kajsa Lindgren run the touring center today.

In addition to coaching the U.S. championship teams in 1958 and 1960, Wiik also served on the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association (USSA) and National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) committees and received the 1974 Julius Blegen Award — USSA’s highest honor. He was a chief steward for the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid.

“Our country was blessed to have him bring his passion for skiing to America and to give so much back to the sport he loved,” U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association President and CEO Tiger Shaw wrote in an email to Steamboat Today. “I was proud to ski on some of the trails he developed for the Slumberland American Birkebeiner this past season.”

According to the article, at the age of 87, Wiik returned from the 2008 Masters World Cup cross-country ski championships in Idaho “barely hiding his disappointment” with two silver medals rather than gold in the men’s 85-99 age group. “Never mind that he had been competing in the championships for 28 years and had a chest full of medals, many of them gold.”

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WADA Revises Meldonium Guidelines, Increasing Leniency

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has revised its guidelines for athletes whose urine samples tested positive for the prohibited metabolic modulator meldonium, according to a document posted to the organization’s website on Thursday. The update allows much more leniency for athletes with traces of the drug found in their urine samples until September 30, 2016. It also places the onus on sports federations to determine whether the athletes used the drug before or after it was added to the Prohibited List on January 1.

Since then, at least 172 athletes have tested positive for the substance. At that time some, like tennis star Maria Sharapova, did not notice the that the drug was newly classified as banned and continued to use the it. Others claim to have stopped using the drug before January 1, but the substance still showed up in their urine samples.

Before this year, little research had been done into how long the drug stays in the human body. WADA has been undertaking a more complete research effort to determine whether those athletes’ claims are valid.

WADA has not released results of their studies, but the organization says that based on initial findings it has revised its estimates upwards. In April, a directive suggested that athletes with concentrations lower than 1 μg /mL up through the end of February could receive a “no fault” judgement. This released several athletes, including two biathletes and a cross-country skier, from their provisional suspensions.

In Thursday’s posting, WADA revised that limit up to 5 μg /mL, and applied the 1 μg /mL limit all the way through September 30. In both cases, WADA wrote that a no-fault finding could be made “In the absence of other evidence of use on or after 1 January 2016,” seemingly leaving it up to the individual sports federations adjudicating the cases to either take the athletes at their words, or else to find a way to investigate the timing of their drug use.

The previous pilot studies had shown that meldonium excretion after a manufacturer-recommended dose of meldonium quickly dropped below 1 5 μg /mL.

WADA also wrote that if there was no other evidence of using the drug after September 29, 2016, when it was announced that meldonium would be added to the Prohibited List, an athlete’s results should not be disqualified – and if they had been already, then those results could be reinstated.

Likely dozens more athletes may now hope for a return to competition, among them professional boxer Alexander Povetkin, whose team already celebrated the new guidelines as vindication even though he was never mentioned by name.

WADA released the update with little fanfare. There have been no comments from media personnel or leadership; the document was not posted on the organization’s social media; nor is it posted to the landing page of their website.

June 26 Roundup: Russian Paralympic Skier Polukhin DQed for Meldonium; Bjørgen Misses Camp

— Russian visually impaired biathlete Nikolay Polukhin was to found to have committed an Anti-Doping Violation this past February, but will receive no period of ineligibility. According to a press release from the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), Polukhin was found to have trace amounts of meldonium in a urine sample he provided after winning the IPC World Cup men’s visually impaired 15-kilometer biathlon event on Feb. 26, 2016, in Finsterau, Germany. The 33 year old’s result was disqualified, making Ukraine’s Anatolii Kovalevskyi the new winner, Russian Iurii Utkin the silver medalist and Russia’s Stanislav Chokhlaev the bronze medalist. Though meldonium is a substance included on the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) 2016 Prohibited List and is not permitted at any time — in or out of competition — the IPC Anti-Doping Hearing Body found “no fault or negligence” on the part of Polukhin and decided there would be no period of ineligibility.

— Norwegian superstar Marit Bjørgen will sit out a national-team training camp (she missed the Olso Ski Show, which took place this year on June 10 due to a stress injury) and will once again not join her teammates as they head to Svarstad, Norway, this week. “The best thing for me now is to stay home and train alternatively when I can not participate in all training activities we carry on gathering,” Bjørgen said to adressa.no, according to a translation. American Jessie Diggins will, however, be making a guest appearance as she continues to train with the Norwegian women’s national team at their camp.

Sjur Ole Svarstad is Norway’s newest coaching addition as women’s national team assistant for the upcoming 2016/2017 ski season. Svarstad, 34, has spent five seasons coaching national-team recruits and now looks forward to working with full-time national team members. “It has been five unforgettable years in rookie team. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with highly motivated cross-country youth. The off-season they have shown in training and in competitions is a setting I have learned a lot and that I take with me. As part of the coaching staff at the women’s national team, I will meet new challenges, and will have new athletes to challenge. It is with great humility that I will now be part of such a strong performance group. I’m looking forward to taking on this task,” Svarstad told skiforbundet.no, according to a translation.

Turnagain Arm as seen from partway up Bird Ridge, outside Anchorage, Alaska, in April. (Photo: Gavin Kentch)

Turnagain Arm as seen from partway up Bird Ridge, outside Anchorage, Alaska, in April. Bird Ridge in Chugach State Park was the site of the Robert Spurr Memorial Hill Climb on June 19. (Photo: Gavin Kentch)

— A bevy of elite skiers from Alaska Pacific University (APU) showcased their uphill running at the Robert Spurr Memorial (Bird Ridge) Hill Climb on Sunday, June 19, at Chugach State Park, outside Anchorage, Alaska. The grueling hill climb ascends from sea level, on the shores of Turnagain Arm, to 3,500 feet above sea level in less than three miles. As originally reported by the Alaska Dispatch News, APU skiers David NorrisScott Patterson and Lex Treinen took the top three spots in this year’s race.  Norris broke the course record, and took precisely one minute off his time from last year. Patterson, who finished less than a second behind Norris, improved by a remarkable 2:16 from last year’s race. Jessica Yeaton, who trains with APU but is a member of the Australian National Team, was second among the women, 1:40 faster than last year. APU skier Becca Rorabaugh was fourth.

— Like watching nordic freestyle videos? Check out the latest from Team Valoche with Part II of their series One of Those Nordic Days,” created by French biathlete Baptiste Jouty and his friend Alexis Boeuf.