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Wild Rumpus Sports

Noah Hoffman Launches Fantasy League, Trading Closes Nov. 26

Race fans looking for the added incentive of physical prizes have a virtual chance to dominate this winter’s cross-country World Cup season, with the recent relaunch of U.S. Ski Team member Noah Hoffman’s Fantasy Cross Country League.

A project Hoffman debuted last year, “Noah Hoffman Fantasy Cross Country” is aimed at gaining a greater following and support for nordic skiing at the international level. The purpose of the league is to collect the most World Cup points by selecting the best team of athletes for each weekend and tour throughout the season. To join, click this link, create an account and pick your team. The first series of trading closes Nov. 26, 8 p.m. Eastern.


– One account per person; no aliases allowed. Each league participant gets a total of 16 skiers for their league team: eight women, eight men. Trades may be made until 8 p.m. Eastern time the night before the opening race of each weekend or tour. See the website calendar for more details on trading.

– Points are awarded for the top-30 finishers from each weekend or tour. At the conclusion of the World Cup season, a grand prize of a pair of Madshus Nanosonic Skate Skis, Madshus 100 UHM Poles, and a Caldwell Sport Fleet Evaluation (plus Stone Grinding, Heatbox, and Race Hardening for one pair of skis) will be awarded to the individual with the best team over the course of the season.

– Prizes will also be awarded every weekend or tour to the individual with the best performing team. See the website prizes for more information.

Last Day of WADA Meetings: Russia, Ukraine Declared Noncompliant (Updating)

Note: We’ll try to update this post as the day progresses.

The Compliance Committee of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has declared RUSADA, the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, noncompliant with the WADA Code.

WADA Director General David Howman told the assembly that in countries which are deemed noncompliant, WADA itself will work with other relevant bodies to make sure that athletes are tested for doping violations. He confirmed that the country itself would be on the hook for the expenses of such a plan.

Besides RUSADA, the committee deemed Ukraine, Andorra, Israel, and Argentina noncompliant, and put Belgium, Brazil, France, Greece, Mexico, and Spain on a “watch list”. Those on the watch list must come into full compliance by March 18th, 2016.

Ukraine was reportedly deemed noncompliant for using a non accredited laboratory.

Even athletes from those countries already deemed noncompliant will see no effects of the ruling on their ability to compete, as WADA will take over organizing testing, according to sources in the meeting. The exception is Russian track and field, which has been sanctioned by its international federation, the IAAF.

This means that Russian and Ukrainian ski and biathlon stars will be on the trails two weeks from now when the World Cup begins.

Surprisingly, Kenya was not named on either list; in a documentary released by German television station ARD, Kenyan distance running was shown to be riddled with blood doping. The BBC is reporting that Kenya was told it needed to explain its anti-doping process or be added to the list.

Earlier in the day at the WADA Board Meeting in Colorado Springs, Colorado, today, many within the movement called for further investigation and action into all sports in the wake of a report by the Independent Commission which found systematic and state-sponsored doping in track and field.

Because the violations came from both within track and field, but also from the Russian state anti-doping agency (RUSADA) and a Moscow laboratory, it is clear that more sports besides track and field are affected. However, so far WADA has declined to specify how intently it will follow up outside of track and field.

“We must have the courage to take decisive action,” said Edwin Moses, the chair of WADA’s Education Committee, in an address to the floor. “No more waiting. No more excuses. Justice requires that the sanction for this doping scandal be so strong, and the message of this Board so clear, that no country will ever do this again… There must be a period of successful auditing and testing so that we can give the world’s best athletes the guarantee that an effective and robust anti-doping program is operational in Russia and that all of Russia’s elite athletes in all sports have been subjected to at least a six to nine month period of reliable testing and investigation.”

Other former athletes involved in the WADA movement have echoed that call.

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Beckie Scott, the Canadian cross-country skiing great, also spoke.

“They’re saying, ‘Why not all sports?'” the Associated Press quotes Scott as saying. “I feel that there are a lot of athletes watching and waiting right now. We’re at a crossroads. We urge you to please consider these athletes and consider these sports as a whole.”

According to the AP, WADA President Craig Reedie responded: “it’s quite difficult to agree today, around this table, that we would investigate all sports around the world.”

That response was “a gut kick to clean athletes,” the AP said that USADA head Travis Tygart replied: “Unless we want to be relegated to an impotent bureaucracy, we have to fulfill our promise to clean athletes and take action as requested by them.”

Nov. 14 Roundup: EU Fluoro Ban Clarified; Harvey and Newell Named Most Beautiful

– “Take it easy, both Birkebeiners and Northug,” began in an article about the European Union banning fluorinated wax. Earlier this week, several media outlets reported the EU would eventually ban such products, which has been the magic behind the fastest, best-gliding skis on the international race circuit. But Adressa stated such reports were “greatly exaggerated.” Currently, the EU doesn’t have any restrictions on fluorinated compounds in wax, but PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) is a different story.

Norway already bans the use of PFOA in consumer products such as clothing, and pots and pans, which benefit from the water- and dirt-resistant properties of PFOA. Bottom line: Norway’s leading wax manufacturer, Swix will have to make some tweaks to eliminate PFOA from certain products.

“We have long known that this could come and are well on our way to solving this problem,” Swix Sport CEO Ulf Bjerknes said, adding that the company will work until it develops an equally good glide product.

To ban PFOA’s use in wax, the European Chemicals Agency must make its recommendation to the EU before Dec. 17. The earliest the ban could go into effect would be January 2018 — and that’s when Norway’s head of such matters will be notified.  As a result, the potential PFOA ban won’t affect wax used at the 2017 World Championships or 2018 Olympics.

“It is very much in skiers’ interest to get rid of PFOA under the skis,” the website for the government-run Environment Norway explains. “The substance is dangerous for the environment, degrades slowly in the environment and accumulates in humans and animals. Upon repeated exposure, it may cause fetal damage and it is suspected that it is carcinogenic. Shown is a probable link between PFOA in blood and increased cholesterol, ulcerative colitis and metabolic diseases.”

The head of the Norwegian national team’s waxing staff, Knut Nystad saw no cause for alarm.

“Anything that improves the environment and the [wax technician] I’m for,” he told Aftenposten.


– Skating in classic races: With growing controversy over what techniques should and should not be allowed during classic races, the International Ski Federation (FIS) released a revised set of rules for competitors, coaches and race juries alike, and did so before this weekend’s FIS season openers.


– Bids for the 2021 Nordic Ski World Championships are becoming more competitive with the addition of two more venues to the list of bidders. Following the FIS fall meeting on Nov. 8, Langrenn reported that Trondheim, Norway, now faces competition from Oberstdorf, Germany, and Planica, Slovenia.


Petter Northug is onboard with Bjørn Dæhlie. After some debate, Norway’s favorite bad boy recently signed a three-year contract with the company, which supplies the Norwegian national team’s race uniforms.


Alex Harvey and Andy Newell made a list of the top-10 best-looking skiers published by Russia’s Harvey, of Quebec, was No. 7 and likened to the “Sensational Alex Harvey Band” with his “black curly hair and passion for rock music,” according to a very rough translation. And Newell, who hails from Vermont and is pictured with a kitten, was No. 9.

Both beat out Norway’s Petter Northug in 10th, whom the site wrote was, “Not used to being at the end of [any] rating, but here his place — tenth — and he was lucky that he is on this list…” While he’s not known for being particularly handsome, the Russian site added, “Petter Northug has an incredibly strong charisma, which attracts the attention it deserved.”

Who was No. 1? Sweden’s Teodor Peterson.


– Time to test! On Sunday, Nov. 15, nordic skiers are invited to demo day in Livigno, Italy, where companies such as Fischer, Madshus, Salomon, Ski Trab, MasterWax, and Swix will allow cross-country skiers to try out equipment.


– Gearing up for Gällivare: Many World Cup athletes, including those from the U.S. and Canadian national teams, and Czech Lukáš Bauer, will kick off the racing season next Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 21-22 at Sweden’s FIS opening races, according to FIS News.

FS Live in Geneva: Follow WADA’s Announcements on Russia via Twitter

FasterSkier's Chelsea Little (not shown) awaits a press conference with WADA officials on Monday in Geneva, Switzerland.

FasterSkier’s Chelsea Little (not shown) awaits a press conference with WADA officials regarding their investigation on Russia on Monday in Geneva, Switzerland.

GENEVA — Members from all across the sporting world are watching this Swiss city of just under 200,000 closely today, as a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) panel is set to announce its first findings from an investigation into doping in Russia.

The investigation was spurred by documentaries produced by German journalist Hajo Seppelt. In the first, he talked to former Russian track and field athletes and found that not only was doping widespread within their federation, but that it was covered up.

A second investigation found that positive doping tests by not only by Russians, but also possibly by Kenyans and others were suppressed and that many medalists at World Championships and Olympics had highly abnormal blood profiles which suggested doping.

More recently, the outgoing head of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), Lamine Diack, has been accused of taking bribe money from Russians in order to allow doping athletes to continue competing, including at the 2012 Olympics.

The WADA Independent Commission will not yet report on those allegations, although they are expected to investigate them in the coming months.

Instead, the Commitssion, led by Canadian lawyer and former WADA head Dick Pound, will report on the investigation into Russian track and field.

In reporting on whether their was systematic or state-sponsored doping by Russian athletes, some have speculated that the panel will also touch on whether similar problems exist for other Russian sports, including cross-country skiing and biathlon.

In January 2014, two Russian biathletes, Ekaterina Iourieva and Irina Starykh, had positive tests for recombinant erythropoietin, a blood-doping drug. Another Russian, former Junior World Champion Alexander Loginov, was snagged with a positive test when the International Biathlon Union re-tested old samples using a new and improved method.

In the run-up to the 2014 Olympics – after the two women had tested positive – Starykh’s coach Vladimir Korolkevich was promoted to the head of the Russian women’s team.

To follow FasterSkier’s coverage of the press conference, follow Editor-at-Large Chelsea Little on Twitter at @ChelskiLittle, and check back to our main page in a few hours for a full writeup.

Nov. 7 Roundup: Beito is a Go; Saarinen Preggo; USBA Names Team

– Late this week, organizers of the International Ski Federation (FIS) season-opening races in Beitostølen, Norway, announced that the races would be run as scheduled Nov. 13-15, despite recently warm temperatures. The races will be run as scheduled — with 10/15-kilometer classic races on Nov. 13, 10/15 k freestyle races on Nov. 14, and a classic sprint on Nov. 15 — but the race course was shortened from 5 kilometers to 3.75 k.


Clare Egan and Sean Doherty were recently named to the US Biathlon team for World Cups 1, 2 and 3, with the International Biathlon Union (IBU) season starting Nov. 29 in Östersund, Sweden. The US Biathlon (USBA) team recently wrapped up a two-week training camp in Utah and made the final selections for its early World Cup team.

“I am excited and grateful for the opportunity to compete as part of Team USA on the World Cup again this winter,” Egan, the fourth member of the women’s team, said in a press release. “My coaches and I worked really hard this summer so I am ready to get on snow and see the work pay off.”
The U.S. roster for IBU World Cups 1-3 includes four women and four men, with Annelies Cook, Hannah Dreissigacker, Susan Dunklee, and Egan, along with Lowell Bailey, Tim Burke, Leif Nordgren, and Doherty.
– Adding to the growing list of expecting cross country skiers, 36-year-old Finnish national star Aino-Kaisa Saarinen announced her pregnancy on Twitter this week. Saarinen is due next spring and hopes to compete in the early part of this season.
“If all goes well, I can compete until Christmas,” she told Langrenn. She is married to 6-foot-7 Finnish basketball player Tom Gustafsson.
– Ever want to race 220 k at once? On April 10, 2016, you can chase your dreams with the the reinstatement of the Red Bull Nordenskiöldsloppet, the world’s longest cross-country race. Registration and race info may be found here:
NRK, a Norwegian public broadcasting corporation, secured the rights to televise ski events, including cross country skiing, ski jumping, alpine, nordic combined, freestyle, and telemark skiing, for five more years.
-Itching to ski on snow? Thanks to snowfarming, you may be closer than you think. Trails in Austria, Switzerland, Italy, or Germany boast a minimum of one kilometer plus.

Oct. 20 Roundup: Visnar Nears Due Date; Gold for Størmer Steira; New Italian Suits

– With Kikkan Randall‘s recent announcement that she is expecting her first child in April 2016, there’s even more talk than ever of motherhood on the World Cup circuit. Marit Bjørgen revealed that she is still training 15 or more hours per week, even though her first child is due in December, and that she hopes to move back to her home district of Trondelag in central Norway to raise her kid. Slovenian sprint star Katja Visnar is also still out and about on roller skis, even though her baby with longtime partner Ola Vigen Hattestad of Norway is due in November!

Rollerskiing goes still fine👌Not fast but good training 😊🍂🍁#pregnantbelly #lovetraining #loveskiing 🎿

A photo posted by Katja Visnar (@katjavisnar) on

Kristin Størmer Steira is making the best of her retirement from cross-country skiing, and recently won the Norwegian national championship in cross-country running. She also won the event in 2008. This time around, she covered the six kilometer course in 23:02.05 over a minute faster than the next finisher. Former national team teammate Martine Ek Hagen also competed, finishing seventh in a time 1:50 slower than Størmer Steira.

– Justyna Kowalczyk is focusing on the “classic World Cup races” and also some marathons this season. “I must admit that I fell in love in these races,” she said of the marathon circuit in an interview with Gazeta Krakowska. “The Vasaloppet it was something wonderful. It is now my love… My main distance at the Winter Olympics in South Korea in 2018 will be 30 kilometers. To best overcome this distance you need to be well prepared. We chose with my coach to do this through the marathons, which for now I will do in small doses… We’ll see how it works and for next season it will all fall into place.”

– The Italian snow sports teams have revealed new suits for the 2015-2016 World Cup season! To check them out, you can watch a behind-the-scenes video of the photo shoot.

Oct. 7 Roundup: Fourcade Aims to Make French XC Team; Kowalczyk in Mercedes Ad

Martin Fourcade, the Frenchman who has won the last three biathlon World Cup overall titles, will again try his hand at skiing. At the FFS (Fédération française de ski) media summit in Paris this week, the new father said that “it’s the right time for me to invest in this project so dear to my heart.” He is targeting FIS races in Beitostolen, Norway, to try to qualify for the French World Cup ski team.

He has successfully done so before; in 2012 he placed sixth in the opener in Beitostolen, but placed a lackluster 48th in his first World Cup appearance in Gällivare, Sweden, a disappointment that left him wanting to try again: “I’m not satisfied of the result and I think it’s not my real level,” he told FasterSkier at the time.

Justyna Kowalczyk frolics through a forest on a training run, then shows off perfectly matching nail polish and a little red dress in a new Mercedes ad in Poland.

– Meanwhile in the Czech Republic, biathlon star Gabriela Soukalova released her first song and music video… and it’s part of a campaign promoting preventative health for men. Her boyfriend, badminton player Petr Koukal, successfully recovered from testicular cancer in 2010 and is now launching a men’s health initiative. You can watch the music video for Soukalova’s song, which features beatboxing and a guest verse by the rapper Petr “Nasty” Cerhahere. Sorry, it’s in Czech.

– The Ski Classics marathon series, which includes the Marcialonga, the Vasaloppet, and the Birkebeiner, among others, has a new title sponsor. Visma, an IT company based in Oslo, Norway, picked up the tab after Swix left as the title sponsor in May. “Ski Classics is very pleased to start this new cooperation with Visma, a fast growing company present in many of the Ski Classics key markets in Europe,” said Ski Classics CEO David Nilsson in a press release. “Visma Ski Classics has been on a constant rise the last seasons and this new partnership with Visma is an evidence of that we are developing the tour in the right direction.” Visma previously sponsored the Norwegian biathlon team, but ended that sponsorship deal after the 2014 Olympics.

Sept. 25 Roundup: Millions for Johaug; Wurm & Doping Teammate Were Best Friends

– After breaking her second hand of the summer a few weeks ago in Livigno, Italy, Norwegian star Therese Johaug is back to training with two poles, according to Meanwhile, it seems she has obligations: a Finnish newspaper reports that she earns a million Euros per year in sponsorship.

Die Tageszeitung, a Berlin-based newspaper, has published more commentary on the Harald Wurm doping scandal in Austria. On their website, the paper notes that Wurm was “best friends” with disgraced teammate Johannes Duerr, who was kicked out of the 2014 Olympics after testing positive for EPO. The paper also notes that the coach of both, and now the coach of the national team, is Gerald Heigl, who was also the coach of one of Austria’s most famous dopers: Christian Hoffman. Hoffman, an Olympic medalist, was eventually banned for six years for blood doping, but in 2012 there was brief talk of him making a comeback, reportedly with Heigl backing such a move.

– You thought you’d seen it all, but another first in cross-country skiing: Petter Northug is starting his own television channel. The name translates to “The Northug Circus” and is based on the concept of a video blog. “I think it’s incredibly exciting to be involved in creating something new in Norwa,” Anders Sæther of Globus media told Norway’s Adressa. “This takes Petter and the ‘blog’ genre a big step forward… Petter can reach audiences sitting 24 hours a day. The project will be financed with a combination of advertising and subscription revenues. Here he will delve into how he trains, including posting his training diary.”

– Elsewhere in Norway, 2007 sprint World Champion Astrid Jacobsen, who had a stellar 2015 season including a World Cup win, team gold and individual silver at World Championships in Falun, did a training session with the women’s biathlon team. Longtime ski coach Steinar Mundal is working with the women, including World Cup winners Tiril Eckhoff and Fanny (Welle-Strand) Horn Birkeland, and trying to get their ski speeds up by focusing on agility, longer training sessions, and more powerful technique. “For these girls it is important to raise the awareness of their abilities,” Jacobsen told broadcaster NRK after the training session. “There are many of them who are actually quite fast, but they have not known about it, and sometimes they choose not to use it as an advantage either. I think we can look forward to winter.”

Stephen, Hoffman Third in Toppidrettsveka ‘Fonna Upp’

U.S. Ski Team members Liz Stephen and Noah Hoffman both raced to third in the Fonna Upp uphill run, the first race of four at the Toppidrettsveka festival on Thursday in Aure, Norway.

Men and women started together in the hill climb, and Norway’s Didrik Tønseth was first to the top in 28:53.5. Sweden’s Martin Johansson placed second, 13 seconds back, and Hoffman was 1:02.5 back in third (video by U.S. coach Jason Cork).

Norway’s Therese Johaug was the fastest woman and 10th overall (another video), winning in 31:18.8, more than 1 1/2 minutes faster than teammate Heidi Weng in second. Stephen reached the summit as the third woman, 2:42.3 behind Johaug.

Also for the U.S., Caitlin Gregg placed ninth, 5:40 back from Johaug, and Simi Hamilton was 13th in the men’s race, 2:40 behind Tønseth. Canada’s Devon Kershaw placed 16th (+2:59.9), as did U.S. sprinter Kikkan Randall. Her teammates Sophie Caldwell and Jessie Diggins placed 20th and 23rd, respectively, and Andy Newell (U.S.) was 40th.

Racing continued Thursday afternoon with a classic rollerski sprint — complete with a prologue and heats.

Caldwell qualified 21st and went on to make the final, where she finished fifth overall.

Norway swept the top three in the women’s final, which Weng won, Kathrine Harsem placed second, and Barbro Kvaale was third.  Germany’s Sandra Ringwald was fourth, Caldwell fifth and Italy’s Greta Laurent sixth.

In the all-Norwegian men’s final, national-team member Petter Northug redeemed himself from finishing 81st of 86 in the hill climb, besting teammate Eirik Brandsdal for the win. Simen Lanes of Team Jobzone was third, his teammate Timo Andre Bakken was fourth, Ola Vigen Hattestad came back from last in the hill climb to place fifth, and Simen Østensen of Team United Bakeries was sixth.

Results: Hill climb | Sprint

Aug. 12 Roundup: Kowalczyk Wins Ushuaia Loppet; Teichmann New Oberhof Coach

  • Last weekend, Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk won the fifth annual Ushuaia Loppet, a 42-kilometer freestyle marathon in the Valley of Tierra Mayor, northeast of Ushuaia, Argentina. The Olympic and world champion finished in 1:51:56, over 10 minutes ahead of the next woman and just one second behind the race winner, Carlos Lannes of Argentina. This year marked the first time the Ushuaia Loppet was a Worldloppet race, a title which helped triple the number of racers attending the marathon. There were 126 competitors from 19 different countries, and they enjoyed the best conditions in the area in 15 years.


  • According to, Axel Teichmann is the new head coach at the training base in Oberhof, Germany. Teichmann is replacing former coach Cuno Schreyl, who had some issues with Oberhof athletes Tim Tscharnke and Thomas Bing that led to the athletes training independently. Teichmann is the new coach for Tscharnke and Bing, as well as up-and-coming Germans Marius Cebulla and Victoria Carl, among others. While the two-time world champion is a little skeptical because he is a novice at coaching, he believes he knows what must go into training to succeed on the World Cup. Teichmann also hopes to have open and effective communication with his athletes. As for goals, Teichmann wants Tscharnke and Bing consistently in the top 15 on the World Cup and believes Carl can contend for a medal at U23 championships.


  • Emil Jönsson has an entirely new training philosophy this summer, one mainly focused on staying healthy. According to SWESKi, the Swedish sprinter is exercising less than in years past and is instead doing a lot of yoga. In fact, he estimates that about half of his training is now mobility based. The Olympic champion missed last year’s World Championships in Falun, Sweden, because of a leg injury, something he does not want to happen again. Since adapting this new training regimen Jönsson feels able to go at his maximum speed without worrying about injury. This is important in sprinting because Jönsson will no longer fear the consequences of going too fast. For Jönsson, hopefully this will lead to a successful year in 2015/2016.

Aug. 6 Roundup: Greggs Race Squaw Mountain Run; Birkie Museum Announced

  • 2014 Olympian Brian Gregg won the 35th annual Squaw Mountain Run with a time of 29:04.1, according to the Sierra Sun. His time was only 14 seconds shy of the course record and beat his personal best time by 1:32. His wife, Caitlin Gregg, also competed, finishing as the second woman with a time of 36:09.9. Caitlin also set a personal record, beating her previous best time by 51 seconds.


  • Plans to commemorate one of North America’s most historic ski races are in motion. According to USSA, the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation intends to open the Museum of the American Birkebeiner in 2016. The museum will celebrate the history of the race and the lasting legacy of Tony Wise, the man who founded the American Birkebeiner. It will also hope to educate and inspire visitors, which will help to keep the skiing culture in Wisconsin strong. Birkie public relations leader Tom Kelly will showcase plans for the museum and share stories from the race’s past on Aug. 12 at Hayward’s Park Center Theatre in a free presentation.


  • According to Adressa, Therese Johaug won the 2015 Storsylen Up, a mountain-running race in Tydal, Norway. Johaug was on pace to break the women’s course record, but the race was cut short by 400 meters because there was too much snow on the summit. The course in Tydal is supposed to climb 1,000 meters over 11 kilometers of racing. Johaug finished with a time of 1:14:14, about eight and a half minutes under the official course record set by Kirsten Melkevik of 1:22:50 in 2014.


  • According to the Washington Post, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is ready to take action against any track and field athletes found guilty of doping. Allegations against many athletes have come up after tests from around 5,000 of them were leaked from the International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF’s) database. These allegations include claims that one-third of endurance race medals at the Olympics and World Championships from 2001 to 2012 were won by athletes who have had suspicious blood tests. “If there should be cases involving results at Olympic Games, the IOC will react with zero tolerance with our usual policy” IOC President Thomas Bach said in response to the new allegations. The IOC does have a history of stripping medals from athletes who are later found guilty of doping.


  • Former Dartmouth cross-country skier Ben True recently qualified for next month’s World Championship 5,000 meter race in Beijing at a track meet in Heusden, Netherlands. According to Running Journal, True’s time of 13:06.15 beat the IAAF’s qualifying standard of 13:23 and was also good enough for third place. Despite having a tough few weeks of training, True accomplished his goal of qualifying for World Championships and will now return to his home in New Hampshire to continue his training.


  • Meanwhile, True’s wife Sarah True qualified for the U.S. Olympic triathlon team along with Gwen Jorgensen with a strong result at the test event in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The duo finished in fourth and first, respectively. As reported by Triathlete, this will be the second consecutive Olympics that the duo will attend. Another American, Katie Zaferes also met the Olympic Team qualifying standard of a top-eight finish at the event in sixth, but will not attend the games because the team only had two spots available.

July 31 Blink Roundup: Northug Wins XC Mass Start; Nordgren 3rd in Biathlon Shooting Comp (Updated)

Friday's male winners at the 2015 Blink festival in Sandnes, Norway: France's Martin Fourcade (l) and Norway's Petter Northug (r) won the biathlon and cross-country mass starts, respectively. (Photo:ørste-suksessdag-over-del-2)

Friday’s male winners at the 2015 Blink festival in Sandnes, Norway: France’s Martin Fourcade (l) and Norway’s Petter Northug (r) won the biathlon and cross-country mass starts, respectively. (Photo:

(Note: This post has been updated to include comments from U.S. biathlete Leif Nordgren.)

After placing 72nd in Thursday’s hill climb on the first day of the Blink rollerski festival, Petter Northug found himself in familiar territory on Friday, winning the 15-kilometer mass start in Sandnes, Norway. He did so after sitting back in his usual fashion and letting others lead until the race came down to a final sprint, where he edged fellow Norwegian Sindre Sætre Hammerlund by 0.7 seconds in 28:41.7. Finland’s Martti Jylhä placed third, 1 second behind Northug.

The men’s cross-country races started off Friday with a prologue, which Norway’s Håvard Solås Taugbøl won in 3:21.37, 0.27 seconds ahead of Renaud Jay of France. Jylhä qualified third (+1.27).

Norway’s Barbro Kvåle won the women’s 10 k mass start by 0.2 seconds over Lotta Udnes Weng in 19:44, and Norway swept the top five with Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen in third (+0.5), Ragnhild Haga in fourth (+0.9) and Ingvild Flugstad Østberg in fifth (+0.9).

In the biathlon races, Finland’s Kaisa Mäkäräinen qualified first in the women’s prologue, 2.6 seconds ahead of Canadian Rosanna Crawford with a top time of 12:26.5. Marine Bolliet of France qualified third (+4.3).

Another French biathlete, Justine Braisaz ended up winning the biathlon mass start in 14:08.5 with a single miss in the four-stage race. She beat Norway’s Fanny Welle-Strand Horn, who missed two, by 5.4 seconds, and Russia’s reigning world champion Ekaterina Yurlova placed third (+8.5) with two penalties. Crawford had four penalties and placed fifth (+15.3). Mäkäräinen was sixth, Boillet seventh, and American Susan Dunklee finished 11th with eight misses.

Norway’s Lars Helge Birkeland won the men’s biathlon qualifier in 10:48.1, a full 7 seconds ahead of Norway’s Tarjei Bø in second. Frenchman Baptiste Jouty moved on in third (+9.9) with clean shooting.

In the men’s biathlon mass start that followed, France’s Martin Fourcade missed one en route to the win in 18:03.7. Bø missed five and finished 1.8 seconds back in second, and Birkeland was third (+3) with five penalties as well. Canada’s Nathan Smith qualified and placed seventh with three penalties.

Nordgren Podiums in ‘Shooting Duel’

Friday’s biathlon events started with head-to-head standing shooting competitions, with racers starting about 5-10 meters back from the shooting points, racing to the mat, shooting until they hit all five targets, leaving their rifle on the mat, and racing back to the line. American Leif Nordgren placed third in the men’s final, 4.9 seconds behind Norwegian winner Kristoffer Skjelvik. Simon Desthieux of France was second, just 0.6 seconds ahead of Nordgren. Also in the 12-man final, Canada’s Brendan Green placed eighth (+7.2).

“I’ve never been in that big of a shooting competition before,” Nordgren wrote in an email. “There was quite a bit of pressure with so many good athletes there, as well as all the fans, but it was still a lot of fun!

“As far as performance, I think it was a little bit random how some people shot,” he added. “Basically everything was moving so fast that if you got lucky and happened to hit all 5 you’d move through no problem, but if something went wrong it also depended on how the other shooters had fared.”

Italy’s Dorothea Wierer won the women’s shooting duel by 0.7 seconds over Norway’s Marte Olsbu. Bolliet finished third (+5.5), Crawford was seventh (+8.9) and Dunklee was ninth (+14.8).

Crawford described the competition as similar to a cross-country sprint race, with quarterfinals, semifinals and a final.

“Then there’s a mega final with the winner of each gender! So the nerves get more and more intense as you go,” she wrote in an email. “I took the approach of shooting smooth would be fast. I knew for sure the first two rounds there would be people missing lots, so going a bit slower and hitting would be worth while. But the nerves I felt in this competition was like nothing I have experienced! My heart was pounding and my legs were shaking it was pretty intense! We practiced this competition on the last day of our training camp, so I was able to come up with a few cue and how I would approach the shooting duel.”

“To be competitive you have to take a little risk and just go for it, and shoot faster than you normally would in a race,” Dunklee explained in an email. “Pushing the pace like this either pays off well, or you have a total melt down and miss a bunch.

“This format is creates a unique psychological challenge,” she added. “Head-to-head, fans and loudspeakers, the pressure of the clock, TV cameras in your face; even though there was no physical exertion involved, most athletes said they had shaky legs while shooting.”

While Dunklee was disappointed with her other races on Friday, she explained she worked on her speed this summer and was confident she could shoot quickly in standing.

“I missed my first couple shoots in the final which took me out of contention, but I feel really proud of winning my semi final,” she wrote. “A year ago, I wouldn’t have believed it possible to make so much progress in my shooting speed in one year to shoot as fast or faster than many of the top ladies on the World Cup.”

“It’s been great to be here at Blink,” Nordgren wrote. “It’s really nice to see where the other top athletes are at in the summer. We never get to see that while in the US during the summer. But it’s nice to mix up our training camp here and get some fun racing in too.”


July 29 Roundup: Blink Festival Begins Thursday; Northug Says He’s Out of Shape


  • The 2015 Blink Ski Festival begins Thursday with the Lysebotn Up, a 7.5 kilometer uphill rollerski race in Lysebotn, Norway. According to ski-nordique, the event has become the big summer event for cross-country skiers and biathletes, likely because many of the world’s best skiers attend the festival. Some examples are Petter Northug, Martin Johnsrud Sundby, Finn Haagen Krogh, Calle Halfvarsson, and Alexander Legkov on the men’s side and Astrid Jacobsen, Heidi Weng, Kerttu Niskanen, Maiken Caspersen Falla, and Aino-Kaisa Saarinen on the women’s side. The Blink Festival serves as an interesting test of mid-summer fitness for many of the World Cup regulars. After the uphill race tomorrow, the festival moves to Sandnes, Norway, where it continues with 10 and 15 k mass starts before wrapping up with a sprint competition on Saturday.


  • Petter Northug briefly spoke with the press after a charity soccer match in Oslo, Norway. Coming off an altitude camp, during which he trained at low intensity, Northug still feels his fitness is not where it needs to be. When asked how his fitness compares to the same time last year, the Norweigan star simply replied, “it is bad.” Aside from his fitness, Northug also needs to sort out a deal with the Norwegian Ski Federation. Without a signed national contract, he will be unable to represent Norway during the upcoming season’s World Cups.


  • The FIS Rollerski World Cup continued last weekend in Madona, Latvia, with a three-day series consisting of a freestyle sprint on Friday, a classic prologue on Saturday, and a freestyle pursuit on Sunday. Sweden’s Linn Somskaer dominated the weekend of races, winning all three races on the women’s side. With such a dominant weekend, Somskaer took the overall Rollerski World Cup lead. On the men’s side, Italian Emanuele Becchis once again showed his sprinting prowess, winning his second sprint of this summer’s Rollerski World Cup. Robin Norum of Sweden won Saturday’s classic prologue, but was unable to hold on in the freestyle pursuit, in which Sergei Dolidovich of Belarus claimed the win. After the weekend’s events, Norum now stands atop the men’s overall Rollerski World Cup standing and Sweden is on top in the team standings. The FIS Rollerski World Cup continues Aug. 21 in Bad Peterstal, Germany.

July 25 Roundup: Johaug Surgery Successful; Kaspiarovich to Head Russian Biathlon Team


  • As reported earlier this week, Norwegian cross-country ski standout Therese Johaug broke her left hand while training in Seiser Alm, Italy. On Tuesday, VG reported that Johaug’s surgery to insert three screws into her left hand was successful. Because of this, she will only have to take 10 days of altered training to rest her hand before returning to her normal training regimen. The two-time 2015 World Champion did not let her injured hand affect her training much before the surgery, as fellow Norwegian cross-country skier Petter Soleng Skinstad stated “she went like crazy at training sessions … after the fall.” Johaug plans to maintain this same attitude as she continues to deal with the injury.


  • According to skisport, the Russian Federation Ministry of Sports recently approved Alexander Kaspiarovich as the head coach of the Russian National Biathlon team. Kaspiarovich had previously been recommended for the position by the Russian Biathlon Union, but was not approved as head coach until now. The newly appointed head coach has been involved in Russian biathlon since 1986 when he was the junior women’s team coach. From 2004 to 2014 he was the Russian senior reserve team coach before becoming the senior men’s team coach for the 2014/2015 season.


  • On Tuesday, Cross Country Canada announced that Canmore, Alberta, will host the 2017 Haywood Ski Nationals. In 2012, the Canmore Nordic Center was reviewed as one of the top two venues on the World Cup circuit, and the location has been a constant in North American World Cups since 2005. Important in the decision to have Canmore host the 2017 Haywood Ski Nationals was that they have a strong athlete-development program, host a good base of officials, and presented a comprehensive bid package. The championship event will include four individual races and a team sprint competition.

July 21 Roundup: Dürr Avoids Criminal Charges; Fourcade Training in Norway


  • According to the Washington Times, the criminal investigation into Johannes Dürr, 28, has been dropped. The former Austrian cross-country skier was kicked out of the 2014 Sochi Olympics for using the banned substance EPO. An important factor in the decision was that Dürr did not provide other athletes with the substance, which would have been illegal under Austria’s anti-fraud laws. Other factors were that it was Dürr’s first offense, that he confessed to the doping charges after the positive test, and that the damages were paid because Dürr reportedly returned money from sponsors. Dürr’s lifetime ban from the Austrian Ski Federation remains, though he has only a two-year ban from the International Ski Federation (FIS).


  • French biathlete Martin Fourcade has been training at the Norwegian Olympic Sports Center in Oslo, Norway, according to NRK. Although he is one of the Norwegian biathlete’s toughest competitors, Fourcade was able to stay and train at the center for free for the beginning of the summer. This enabled both Fourcade and other athletes at the center to help each other improve and further develop the sport. He just finished his two-month free stay at the center. In an interview with L’Équipe, Fourcade said he went to Oslo in order to explore something new, while he trained in the location of next year’s Biathlon World Championships. He also stated that being at the center enabled him to train as hard as ever while also getting plenty of rest because he could focus entirely on his training without distractions and other stresses that exist at his home in France. Fourcade wraps up his two-month stay in Oslo today, but he plans to return to Oslo in November.


  • According to ski-nordique, the FIS World Cup will host a ski tour in Canada from March 1-12. The Ski Tour Canada will be modeled after the Tour de Ski and could potentially take place every four years. The eight-stage race will take place in Gatineau, Montréal, Québec, Canmore and Lake Louise. FIS officials are very excited about the project, which could be a highlight of the season since it will be a very important race series to decide who will win the overall 2015/2016 World Cup titles. You can find out more about the Ski Tour Canada here.

July 17 Roundup: Potential 2022 Winter Olympic Hosts; Northug Heads to Altitude Camp


  • According to FIS, the bid for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games is down to two cities, Almaty, Kazakhstan, and Beijing, China. Each city is bringing a unique vision for the Games; Almaty envisions an Olympics centered around sports and physical activity, infrastructure, and economic growth while Beijing proposes to use the games to more heavily integrate winter sports into peoples lives. This would ultimately aid in developing a market for winter sports in Northern China where 300 million reside. A decision between the two potential host cities will be made on July 31.


  • Norway’s Petter Northug will attend an altitude camp in Central Europe this July despite experiencing fatigue during the early stages of his summer training, reports Adressa. Northug initially planned to skip the camp, but now that he is feeling healthier, he has decided to attend. According to his coach, Stig Rune Kveen, Northug is fully focused on being as fast as possible this winter, so it is encouraging that is now feeling better.


  • The FIS Ski Jumping Continental Cup began on July 4 and 5 in Kranj, Slovenia. The series gives younger, up-and-coming athletes the opportunity to compete against the worlds best while also improving their skills. Poland’s Dawid Kubacki won both days on his way to a 60-point lead in the series over Slovenia’s Peter Prevc. The Continental Cup continues on August 8 in Wisla, Poland.

July 14 Roundup: Cologna and Powell Face Off; Tour de Ski Under the Lights


  • The FIS Rollerski World Cup kicked off in Oroslavje, Croatia, this past weekend with three races from July 10July 12. In the women’s 10-kilometer skate mass start on July 10, Sweden’s Marika Sudin won, Ksenia Konohova of Russia took second and another Swede, Linn Somskaer came in third in a closely contested finish. In the men’s 12.5 k skate, seven athletes came into the finish together where Norwegian Ragnar Bragvin Andresen outsprinted the pack for the win. Italy’s Emanuele Sbabo and Sergio Bonaldi rouded out the podium in second and third, respectively. Saturday brought a freestyle sprint competition where Kiara Claudi of Germany won the women’s division. She was followed by Friday’s winner, Sudin, in second and Valiantsina Kamiskaya of Belarus in third. On the men’s side, Italian Emanuele Becchis bested second- and third-place finishers Dmitriy Voronin of Russia and Norwegian Ludvig Søgnen Jensen. The competition wrapped up on Sunday with a 7 k uphill classic race. Friday’s third-place finisher, Somskaer dominated with a 1:01.5 victory over Sudin, and Russian Tatiana Jambaeva rounding out the podium in third. In the men’s race, Swede Oscar Persson topped the podium ahead of Russians Ivan Solodov and Robin Norum. The Rollerski World Cup continues on the weekend July 24 in Madona, Latvia.
  • According to Adressa, Switzerland’s Dario Cologna raced 100 meters against former 100-meter world-record holder, Jamaica’s Asafa Powell. The catch was, Cologna was on skis and got a moving start. The dual sport event took place at the Jungfraujoch in Switzerland at 3,454 meters above sea level, a location that benefitted Cologna. Still, it was a hotly contested race and a winner could not be determined. You can decide for yourself by watching the video here.
  • NRK has reported that Tour de Ski organizers are currently discussing the possibility of having the 2016 Tour de Ski finish in the late afternoon under floodlights. The idea seems realistic for FIS, however, television broadcasters must approve of the lighting conditions in Val di Fiemme before a decision can be reached. This could add more excitement to an already popular event; 17.2-million viewers worldwide tuned in to the Tour de Ski last year.
  • According to ski-nordique, France’s Célia Aymonier is switching from cross country to biathlon for the foreseeable future. Last season, the 23 year old tallied two top-10 finishes in the Rybinsk World Cup. However, the apparent lack of support for cross-country skiers in France led Aymonier to the decision. She is also very excited to take on the new challenge.

July 10 Roundup: Svendsen on Track; Search for Norwegian Director Continues

  • The Norwegian Ski Federation has yet to find a replacement for its former nordic director, Åge Skinstad, according to Langrenn. Skinstads had been the director since 2006, but stepped down after the season so he could become the director of NHO Inland on Aug. 1. There is a final round of potential replacements for Skinstad that still need to be evaluated, including Guri Hetland, Trond Nystad and Knut Nystad.
  • Norwegian biathlete Emil Hegle Svendsen trained for 103 hours in June as part of his mission to be in the best shape of his life for the upcoming season, according to Madshus. He is especially focused on performing well at Biathlon World Championships on his home turf in Oslo from March 313th.
  • Langrenn recently reported that, according to a report from TV-and-marketing company Infront, interest in nordic disciplines (skiing, biathlon, nordic combined, and ski jumping) were at an all-time high in Norway last year. While viewing figures internationally have slipped in recent years, they have still risen in Norway, with jumping being the most popular discipline.

July 7 Roundup: Domracheva, Inge Braten Memorial, Fair Play Mecenate

Biathlete Darya Domracheva was recently diagnosed with mononucleosis, according to Although Belarusian says she’s already been through the worst of the illness, the three-time Olympic gold medalist will take it easy throughout the summer. She hopes to return to the IBU World Cup opener in Östersund this November.

According to FIS, Swedish World Cup stars Charlotte Kalla and Calle Halvarsson were victorious in the start competition at the Inge Braten Memorial in Sunne this past Saturday. The women’s competition consisted of 12 laps on a kilometer loop. Although several skiers exchanged the lead in the first laps, Kalla pulled away from the field to win the race. Lin Somskar was second and Stina Nilsson was third.

In the men’s race, which was a 20 k mass start, Haflvarsson skied similarly to Kalla for the victory. Norway’s Sindre Bjørnestad Skar claimed second while Bill Impola of Sweden was third.

According to Langrenn.comBjørn Dæhlie was awarded the 2015 Fair Play Mecenate Award. “Of course it is nice to be remembered for my results, but I am humbled that I be recognized for my attitude to operate and exercise my sport” he said.  “The prize is very high.”

Ole Einar Bjoerndalen and Marit Bjørgen won the same award in 2009 and 2014, respectively. 

July 2 Roundup: Kalla Ready for Tour, New FIS Sponsor, Controversy in Duluth

– Charlotte Kalla recently told NRK Sport that she was excited to start the 2016 Tour de Ski, especially with the exit of Norwegian Marit Bjørgen due to pregnancy. The Swede, who skipped the 2014 event and finished seventh in 2013, is looking to improve on her past performances but acknowledged that the competition would still be tough and that she would need to improve her sprinting.

– Le Gruyère AOP will be a new main sponsor of the FIS Cross Country World Cup. Le Gruyère AOP, a cheese company from Switzerland, will partner with FIS for a least three years.

”Le Gruyère AOP is proud to be a main sponsor of the FIS Cross-Country World Cup, reinforcing its engagement for winter sports. We are delighted to become part of the Cross-Country family. We will be thrilled to live the emotion of the World Cup and to let people of such a great variety of countries discover our product,” Interprofession du Gruyère Manager Philippe Bardet said to FIS.

– Duluth is often thought of as a skiing destination, but a new $1.5 million nordic center at Spirit Mountain that features lighted trails and snowmaking has neighbors concerned. According to the Duluth News Tribune, residents say that the new trails will enter a no-development buffer zone created in 1984, and are concerned with the noise and light associated with snowmaking and grooming machines. City council members say the 1984 agreement was non-binding, but expressed concern over the project and will review the plans in search for a compromise. If approved and funded, facility could be operational by the 2016/2017 season.