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Archives for January 2014

Feb. 24 Roundup: Venezuelan Skier’s World-Famous Story; Northug Gives Up Starts

– Venezuela’s Adrian Solano had a long road to World Championships. While trying to get to Sweden to train last month, he was stopped by French border agents on Jan. 19 while trying to make a connecting flight in Paris. The 22-year-old, who took up rollerskiing about a year ago, told the officials that he was competing in World Championships, which they didn’t believe. He was detained and questioned for five days, and with just 28 euros in cash on hand, he eventually decided to return to Venezuela.

“I told them that we train on wheels. I only had €28 with me and the police accused me of trying to immigrate because things were going badly in my country,” Solano told the BBC.

“My expectations were to train and finish in a good place at the competition,” Solano later told The New York Times. “But that got broken the minute I didn’t get to Sweden.”

Thanks to a joint effort from his coach César Baena and Aleksi Valavuori, a sports and television personality in Finland who caught wind of his story, a GoFundMe page raised the $2,000 euros Solano needed to fly to Finland for World Championships in just three hours on Monday night, the Times reported.

“The campaign eventually reached its overall goal of 4,000 euros, and three main sponsors have since helped with Solano’s expenses,” the Times noted.

“When he arrived, it was like love at first sight with everybody,” Valavuori told the Times. “But he only told me about having not seen snow after he got here.”

Solano had never before skied on snow, yet he competed in the 10-kilometer classic individual start on Wednesday, a qualifying race for the championships. He didn’t finish, but smiled after completing one loop. He went on to finish the 1.6 k freestyle sprint qualifier in last place (156th) on Thursday. And again, he was smiling at the finish.

“The part I actually enjoyed the most was falling down,” Solano told the Times, “because now I am more motivated to get up and keep achieving my goal.”

 

– Norway’s Petter Northug only planned to contest two races at Lahti World Championships: the sprint and the 50 k that he qualified for as the defending world champion. He reportedly relinquished his spot on Norway’s 12-man World Championships team for the rest of the races, which, in turn, granted starts to Hans Christer Holund. Northug told Langrenn he was excited to see what the 27-year-old Holund could accomplish.

 

– The Norwegian team’s leading man, Martin Johnsrud Sundby is considered one of the world’s best skiers, yet an individual World Championships gold eludes him. He will be aiming for his first at 2017 Nordic World Championships in Lahti, Finland, over the next week. He has two individual medals — bronze in 2011 and silver in 2013. Also in 2011, he won gold with the men’s 4 x 10 relay. According to Sweski, Sundby planned his taper about 10-12 days before World Championships.

 

– Before the 44th annual American Birkebeiner was canceled on Friday, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker announced that Feb. 19-23, 2017, was officially “American Birkebeiner Week” across the state. The American Birkebeiner, a.k.a. the Birkie, is North America’s largest cross-country ski race with more than 13,000 skiers typically racing from Cable to Hayward, Wis. The event brings in an estimated $26 million to the state’s northwestern region. This year was to mark a new era for the race with a new start and trailhead, but organizers had to cancel because of a lack of snow. In its place, an event called BirkieStock 2017 is being held Saturday at the trailhead with live music, a jumbo screen to watch Nordic World Championships, food, drinks, on-snow ski and fat-bike demos, and a roughly 5-kilometer loop for recreational skiing from 11:45 a.m. to 5 p.m.

 

– German biathlete Miriam Gössner’s new career plan is to become a mountain biker. The 26 year old placed sixth at national championships last year in the “eliminator sprint”, and previously broke several lumbar vertebrae three years ago while mountain biking, which really hurt her nordic career.  She has decided to join the German pro team ROSE Vaujany for at least part of the year.

“This is a great new goal that gives me a distraction, and already in 2016 I was able to see that there is a great atmosphere in the team,”Gössner said, according to rad-net.  “Everyone is super nice to me, and I look forward to exciting moments together.”

“We are happy to welcome Miri in our team,” Rose Head Coach Kerstin Thum said.  “She is a positive personality who has achieved a lot and is a true professional.  On top of that Miri always creates a good mood and will surely mix up our team a bit. … We will not only experience Miriam on the sprint course. Her conditioning is at such a high level that she can use that better on longer distances.”

 

— Ian Tovell and Alex Kochon

Feb. 11 Roundup: IPC World Champs This Week in Finsterau; Otepää World Cup Next Weekend

— The 2017 World Para Nordic Skiing Championships are happening from Feb. 10-19 in Finsterau, Germany. Over the next week, there will be a total of 38 competitions taking place between biathlon and cross-county skiing, according to World Para Nordic Skiing. More than 120 athletes from 19 countries are competing, including three-time world champion sit-skier and Paralympic gold medalist Andrea Eskau. Eskau is hoping that the home crowd will help her return to the top of the podium.

“If I win a medal, I can celebrate this with my family. This is a nice thought!” Eskau said. “I hope to be able to compete in Finsterau in very good shape.”

Other notable skiers include overall World Cup leader Lidziya Hrafeyeva of Belarus, two-time Paralympic medalist Oksana Masters of the U.S., and Germany’s Martin Fleig. Live timing at Finsterau2017.com.

 

– The Otepää World Cup will take place as planned next weekend, Feb. 18-19, according to its local organizing committee. This will be the 14th time that Otepää is hosting a World Cup, which is the biggest winter event in Estonia.

“The stadium and sprint course are in good condition,” Otepää organizing committee chairman Jaak Mae said, according to a press release. “The last section of the 5 km course will be covered during next few days and after that all the tracks are completed.”

The races will be a freestyle sprint on Saturday and 10/15 k classic individual starts on Sunday. The course will include the half-kilometer-long Tehvandi Climb, which increases in steepness toward the top.

 

— The International Biathlon Union (IBU) has decided to pull 2021 World Championships from Tyumen, Russia. The IBU gave the Russian Biathlon Union 14 days to voluntarily give up its hosting responsibilities and plans to increase the fines tenfold when it comes to doping disciplinary measures to a maximum of $1 million euros, according to Ski-Nordique.

 

 

— Ian Tovell

Feb. 3 Roundup: Caldwell to be Inducted into VT Hall; 800 Skiers Expected for Boulder Mountain Tour

John Caldwell of Putney, Vt., will be inducted into the Vermont Sports Hall of Fame on April 22 in South Burlington, Vt., at the Hilton Hotel Burlington, according to the Brattleboro Reformer. Caldwell represented the U.S. at the 1952 Olympics, both in cross-country skiing and nordic combined. After retiring, he returned to where it all started, The Putney School, to teach and coach. He was the U.S. coach for the 1968, 1972, 1980, and 1984 Olympics, and is known as the grandfather of nordic skiing, having coached some of the best U.S. skiers, such as his own son Tim Caldwell, Bill Koch, Mary Heller, Jim Galanes, and Martha Rockwell. A member of the first U.S. women’s nordic team at the 1972 Olympics, Rockwell will also be inducted into the Vermont Sports Hall of Fame. Caldwell is the author of “The Cross Country Ski Book,” which is known as the bible for cross-country skiing.

– Eight hundred skiers are expected at the 42nd annual 34-kilometer Boulder Mountain Ski Tour on Saturday as part of the eighth-annual Sun Valley Nordic Festival in Ketchum, Idaho. Race director Kelly Allison told the Idaho Mountain Express, “The course is in unbelievable shape. It’s about as good as it gets.” Caitlin and Brian Gregg will be returning as the defending champions from last year. Some of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation Gold Team members, including U23 World Championships competitor Cole Morgan, will be competing as well.

– The lack of snow won’t stop the sixth stop of the Ski Classics at the 40th Gran Fondo Dobbiaco-Cortina on Sunday, Feb. 11. The start for both days will be at Prags-Schmieden/Braies-Ferrara, which is the same start as in 2016. The 50 k race has been shortened to 40k due to lack of snow, but the hope is more snow will fall and the track will be able to be extended, according to a  Dobbiaco-Toblach Cortina press release.

– South Korean skier Kim Magnus missed Friday’s 1.5 k World Cup sprint at home in PyeongChang due to an illness, according to Yonhap News Agency.  Magnus is considered one of South Korea’s rising stars.  He won two gold medals and one silver medal at the 2016 Winter Youth Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway.  He pulled himself out of the sprint, and it was uncertain if he will be competing in the skiathon on Saturday or not. Without Magnus, South Korea had five skiers compete in the sprint. None of them qualified for the heats.

— Ian Tovell

Jan. 26 Roundup: Calgary Considers Bid for 2026 Winter Olympics; Northug in Falun

— Calgary is considering a bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games. Both the provincial and federal governments are interested in moving forward. Calgary’s mayor, Naheed Nenshi, said that there is a lot to do, but knows there is plenty of time to prepare, according to GamesBids. They want to make sure that the public, federal government and province supports it, as well as determine what the revenue and profit potential would be to host. The city council has set at June 30 date to decide whether or not it will bid. Other cities considering bids for the 2026 Olympics are Sapporo, Japan, Stockholm, Sweden, and Almaty, Kazakhstan.  The IOC will select the host for those Games in 2019.

 

— Petter Northug plans to start Sunday’s 30 k classic mass start at this weekend’s World Cup in Falun, Sweden. He will replacing Didrik Tønseth, who has been struggling with food poising all week and has not been able to recover, according to Langrenn. Northug was training in Meråker, Norway when he got the news that he will be starting. Northug was disappointed not to be in the original starting lineup for Falun, but is excited to be racing and is ready to compete at top level. He hasn’t raced a World Cup in nearly two months and most recently placed 26th in a 15 k freestyle FIS race in Sjusjøen, Norway.

 

— The sixth event in the Ski Classics series will be this weekend’s Marcialonga from Moena to Cavalese, Italy. The marathon was shortened from 70 kilometers to 57 k due to low snow.

“The course is in a great shape at the moment, even if we had to shorten it to 57km,” Gloria Trettel, the Marcialonga CEO said, according to a Ski Classics press release.

There is rich history when it comes to this race as it dates back all the way to the ’60s. Two Italian athletes in 1969 raced the Vasaloppet for the first time and decided they wanted to have a similar race in Italy. The two valleys of Femme and Fassa were chosen as the locations, but it still needed to choose an appropriate name. They finally decided on Marcialonga, or Long March, to represent the idea of hard work and friendly competition of the athletes. The first Marcialonga was held February 7, 1971 and has now become one of the most popular long distance races in the world.

On Sunday, Jan. 29, Britta Johansson Norgren and Tord Asle Gjerdalen will be attempting to defend their wins from last year’s Marcialonga. Norgren and Gjerdalen are currently both leading the standings, with Norgren also leading the sprint competition. Andreas Nygaard, who is currently second in the Ski Classics standings, is currently leading the men’s sprint competition.

 

— Calle Halfvarsson isn’t happy with his anchor leg in last weekend’s World Cup relay at home in Ulricehamn, Sweden, where he lost the sprint finish to Norway’s Finn Hågen Krogh. Halfvarsson said that it was not mentally good for him going into 2017 World Championships, where Krogh will most likely be Norway’s anchor again. The Swede has been struggling with illness all season and said he’s starting to get back to normal. He mentioned that he tried to convince someone else to go last, but no one stepped up. According to Langrenn, Sweden’s head coach Rikard Grip understands Halfvarsson’s concerns and hopes that this will fuel him moving forward.

 

— Polar wants to see who skis the hardest — cross-country skiers or biathletes — with a team challenge that ends on Feb. 28, 2017. The company has selected six athletes to see who will rally the most active fans and rack up the most kilometers. They are: Kikkan Randall (USA), Mark Rajack (Trinidad & Tobago), Sergey Ustiugov (Russia), Erik Lesser (Germany), Kaisa Mäkäräinen (Finland), and Mona Brorsson (Sweden). The way the contest works is that you register your Polar product or use their free training application Polar Beat. Then choose your athlete and join their team and get out and start skiing. The main prize is 2 VIP tickets to the FIS World Cup race of the winner’s choosing. Complete details can be found here.

— Ian Tovell

Jan. 16 Roundup: Eliassen Out; Weng’s Biggest Cheerleader; Herrmann Returns to XC

— There was a familiar face missing from the start line this past weekend at the Kaiser Maximilian Lauf, part of the Ski Classics series, in Seefeld, Austria. According to LangrennPetter Eliassen of Team Leaseplan did not race to a persistent illness that he’s had since Christmas. He won the Kaiser Maximilian last year, which helped him win the overall 2016 Ski Classics title. Eliassen told Langrenn that he has been sick for a few weeks and didn’t feel ready to race. In his absence, Team Santander’s Andreas Nygaard rolled to his second-straight Ski Classics victory on Saturday, after winning the Vasaloppet China. Nygaard leads the overall Ski Classics standings by 34 points over his teammate Tord Asle Gjerdalen, while Eliassen dropped from fifth to eighth overall.

 

— Heidi Weng has a lot of fans, especially in Norway, but perhaps none bigger and more energetic/ enthusiastic than her mom Mary Bente Weng. As Weng raced to her first overall Tour de Ski victory in the final climb just over a week ago, her mom ran alongside her, all the way up the hill, which was caught on video and posted on Petter Northug’s Facebook page. She won by more than a minute and a half.

 

— After making the switch to biathlonDenise Herrmann went back to her roots this past weekend to race in the Cross-Country World Cup sprints in Toblach, Italy, where she placed 13th in the individual freestyle sprint (as the second-best German woman) and notched fourth in the team sprint with teammate Sandra Ringwald. According to Sportal.de, Herrmann is aiming to qualify for the upcoming 2017 Nordic World Ski Championships in Lahti, Finland, next month. She explained that while she wants to be a top biathlon World Cup competitor, she’s also hoping to race in Lahti and represent Germany in the women’s relay. She earned bronze with the relay at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and started competing in biathlon in December. As of now, it does not look like she will qualify for the Biathlon World Championships in Hochfilzen, Austria, Feb. 9-19.

 

— From Jan. 13-20, Ukraine is hosting its first-ever International Paralympic Committee (IPC) World Cup, leading up to the upcoming 2017 Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Finsterau, Germany (Feb. 10-19). “This is the first time our country will have hosted such a high-profile event and we are really proud to welcome the other nations,” said Ukrainian four-time Paralympic champion Oleksandra Kononova, according to a Paralympic.org press release. “We feel even more responsibility to perform well. We hope that each victory will show our country’s sporting strength and power. We are ready.”

 

— Ian Tovell and Alex Kochon

Hendrickson Again Top American as China TDS Comes to a Close

Daniel Maka of the Czech Republic (left) crosses the line to take the narrow victory ahead of Wang Qiang of China (bib 2) to win the freestyle sprint final in Stage 6 of the 2017 China Tour de Ski in Yanqing. (Photo: China Tour de Ski/tourdeskichina.com)

Daniel Maka of the Czech Republic (left) crosses the line to take the narrow victory ahead of Wang Qiang of China (bib 2) to win the freestyle sprint final in Stage 6 of the 2017 China Tour de Ski in Yanqing. (Photo: China Tour de Ski/tourdeskichina.com)

It’s a long ways from Norway to China, but that wasn’t slowing down Norway’s Haakon Hjelstuen (formerly of Michigan Tech) who will be taking home an additional 20,000 yuan for first place overall in the men’s division as the 10th annual China Tour de Ski wrapped up at Shijinglong Ski Resort, in Yanqing, outside Beijing, earlier Monday. Meng Hongliang of China took the women’s overall title.

(The references are to something or someone who loves snow, particularly plants that have grown through a snow cover, and someone fond of Chinese people and customs, respectively. And 20,000 yuan is slightly under $3,000.)

The six-stage tour was heavy on the freestyle sprints, with four of the stages featuring short skate sprints. Monday’s Stage 6 was no exception, as racers once more competed in a 1.5-kilometer freestyle sprint. This one was not easy, as racers faced a climb of at least 40 meters before the 450-meter mark of the 1.5-kilometer stage. The rest of the lap featured more gradual rolling hills leading up to a downhill finish.

Czech skier Daniel Maka was victorious on the day in the men’s race, winning the final sprint for his first stage victory of this year’s tour. Wang Qiang and Zhu Mingliang, both of China, rounded out the podium.

Nick Hendrickson (now University of Utah, former U.S. Nordic Combined) reached the semifinal for the third time in four sprint stages, finishing seventh on the day. Behind him, Jack Novak (APU) made it as far as the quarterfinals, finishing 16th. Skyler Kenna (APU) was 25th in qualifying, missing out on the 16-racer heats.

It was an all-Chinese podium on the women’s side: Li Xin, Man Dandan, and Chi Chunxue. Li Xin won four out of six stages in this year’s Tour (Stages 1, 4, 5, and 6), but was deemed ineligible for the overall Tour title because she failed to finish Stage 3, the 50 k classic Vasaloppet China.

Behind them, Lauren Fritz (APU) qualified in 12th, but again saw her day end in the quarterfinals in 14th overall.

The overall podium for the tenth annual China Tour de Ski was Meng Hongliang of China, Julia Jansson of Sweden, and Veronika Mayerhofer of Austria for the women. Mayerhofer skied in this country for the University of Utah, and was the FasterSkier Collegiate Skier of the Year in 2015. For the men, the Norwegian Hjelstuen in first overall was followed by Samuel Rege Gianasso of France in second and the Czech Maka in third.

Complete final standings were not immediately available. As of the close of Stage 5, Hendrickson had been eighth overall in the Tour standings, Novak 15th, and Kenna 23rd for the men. Fritz had ranked 15 out of 37 for women.

Results: women | men

— Gavin Kentch

Fritz, Hendrickson 14th in Stage 5 of China TDS

Haakon Hjelstuen of Norway (bib 3) crosses the line ahead of Didrik Fjeld Elset of Norway (bib 4) to win the freestyle sprint final in Stage 5 of the 2017 China Tour de Ski in Xiwuqi. (Photo: China Tour de Ski/tourdeskichina.com)

Haakon Hjelstuen of Norway (bib 3) crosses the line ahead of Didrik Fjeld Elset of Norway (bib 4) to win the freestyle sprint final in Stage 5 of the 2017 China Tour de Ski in Xiwuqi. (Photo: China Tour de Ski/tourdeskichina.com)

Lauren Fritz (APU) and Nick Hendrickson (now University of Utah, former U.S. Nordic Combined) each reached the quarterfinals to finish 14th overall in Stage 5 of the China Tour de Ski, a 1.2-kilometer freestyle sprint held in Xiwuqi, in the Inner Mongolia region of China, earlier Saturday.

The two-lap race was held beneath sunny skies and cold temperatures, with race-time temps a barely FIS-legal –17 C, or 1.4° F. It was the third skate sprint in five stages, following 1.5 k skate sprints in Stages 1 and 2 in Changbaishan and Changchun.

First place in the women’s race went to Li Xin of China, who also won the sprint in Stage 1 and the prologue-distance mass start in Stage 4. Chinese and Swedish skiers made up the rest of the four-person final. Fritz made it as far as the quarterfinals on the day after qualifying in 13th.

In the men’s race, Norway’s Haakon Hjelstuen (formerly of Michigan Tech), who also won Stage 1, logged his second victory in this year’s Tour, coming out ahead of a French–Norwegian four-person final. Behind him, Hendrickson qualified in 12th and ended his day 14th overall. Jack Novak (APU) was 19th in qualifying (only the top 16 made the heats). Skyler Kenna (APU) was a few places back in 23rd.

Hjelstuen has already wrapped up the overall Tour victory; with Monday’s final stage still remaining, Hjelstuen leads Samuel Rege Gianasso of France by 102 points. With 100 points awarded for a stage victory, Hjelstuen is assured of the final overall title and an additional 20,000 yuan (slightly under $3,000). The women’s overall race is much tighter, with Li Xin holding a 31-point lead over her countrywoman Meng Honglian going into Stage 6.

Hendrickson is currently eighth in the overall Tour standings, Novak 15th, and Kenna 23rd out of 42 racers. Fritz ranks 15th out of 37 on the distaff side.

The Tour ends with Stage 6, one last 1.5 k skate sprint, at Shijinglong Ski Resort, in Yanqing, roughly 80 kilometers outside of downtown Beijing, on Monday morning. Tour racers are due in the hotel parking lot at 4:30 a.m. Sunday for the bus from the hotel to the airport to begin the process of returning from Inner Mongolia to Beijing.

Results: women | men | women’s Tour overall | men’s Tour overall

— Gavin Kentch

Caldwell, Hamilton Win OPA Cup Sprints in Planica

U.S. Ski Team (USST) skiers raced well throughout the weekend in a three-race series of OPA Cup races in Planica, Slovenia, including an American podium sweep in the opening sprint races.

On Friday the first couple of American sprinting, Sophie Caldwell (USST and SMST2) and Simi Hamilton (USST and SMST2), ruled the day, with each skier winning their final in a 1.25-kilometer freestyle sprint.

On the women’s side, Caldwell was eighth in qualifying in the 44-racer field, 4.45 back from the leading qualifying time set by Italian Greta Laurent. Fellow USST sprinter Ida Sargent (USST and Craftsbury Green Racing Project) was roughly a second faster, qualifying in fifth (+3.60).

Both Caldwell and Sargent made the A-Final. Caldwell won it, over Laurent in second and Italy’s Francesca Baudin in third. Sargent ended her consistent day with a fifth in the A-final. Times for the final were not immediately available.

In the men’s race, Hamilton qualified second, 2.93 seconds behind Lucas Chanavat of France. The other American in Planica for the weekend, Andy Newell (also USST and SMST2), qualified eighth, 5.06 back, near the top of a 94-racer field.

Newell’s day ended in the quarterfinals, leaving him 13th overall. Hamilton advanced to and won the A-final, taking the victory over French skiers Baptiste Gros and Chanavat. Again, Hamilton’s winning time is unknown.

Results: Women (qualifying and final) | Men (qualifying and final)

— Gavin Kentch

Bjornsen Out of Tour de Ski, Battling Cold

Sadie Bjornsen (U.S. Ski Team) racing to her first career World Cup podium on Friday at Stage 5 of the Tour de Ski in Toblach, Italy. She placed third in the 5 k freestyle. (Photo: Fischer/Nordic Focus)

Sadie Bjornsen (U.S. Ski Team) racing to her first career World Cup podium on Friday at Stage 5 of the Tour de Ski in Toblach, Italy. She placed third in the 5 k freestyle. (Photo: Fischer/Nordic Focus)

One day after earning the first World Cup podium of her career, Sadie Bjornsen was forced to call it quits on the 2017 Tour de Ski.

“I woke up battling a little something yesterday, but was hoping I would kick it out of the house with a night of sleep,” Bjornsen wrote in an email on Saturday morning. “But that wasn’t quite possible. It’s just a little cold, but there is a lot of racing left this season and I don’t need to miss another block of training trying to find health… so I’m playing the smart card. Health first.”

Bjornsen was in ninth position in the overall Tour de Ski standings going into the final two stages, but will end up watching from the sidelines.

“So sad to not be finishing this amazingly fun tour, but I am still soaking in some good moments to motivate my immune system back to 100%,” she wrote.

Despite feeling slightly run down Friday morning, Bjornsen had locked in third place in the 5 k skate in Toblach, Italy. As for how she was able to turn in one of the best performances of her career at the onset of her cold, Bjornsen said it was par for the course.

“I think that’s how it often works,” she wrote. “Right before you go down, you can sometimes go up. Our immune systems are in constant tax mode with this tour racing. I had a lot of swings this past week with some super ups and super lows.. which probably contributed to picking up a little bug. I have the form right now, I now just need to learn how to deal with excitement and dissapointment a little better. Every day is a new lesson on this traveling circus!

Novak Reaches Podium in Stage 4 of China TDS

Lauren Fritz poses for a picture with local spectators in Xiwuqi, Inner Mongolia during the 2016 China Tour de Ski. (Photo: Lauren Fritz)

Lauren Fritz poses for a picture with local spectators in Xiwuqi, Inner Mongolia, during the 2016 China Tour de Ski. (Photo: Lauren Fritz)

Jack Novak (APU) recorded the first American podium finish in this year’s China Tour de Ski, coming out of a group sprint to place third in a 5.7-kilometer freestyle mass start race in Stage 4 of the Tour in Xiwuqi, China, earlier Friday.

Following Wednesday’s Stage 3 in Changchun, the Tour moved close to 1,000 kilometers northwest, to the Inner Mongolia region of China, for Friday and Saturday’s races. Friday, athletes competed on a 1.9 k loop with minimal elevation change. Men raced three laps for a 5.7 k mass start skate race. Women raced two laps for a 3.8 k mass start skate race.

Samuel Rege Gianasso of France won the men’s race, finishing in 13:06.9. The top four finishers all crossed the line within 0.9 seconds of each other. Norway’s Haakon Hjelstuen (formerly of Michigan Tech) was second (+0.3). Novak was third (+0.6). Another Norwegian, Erlend Moian Nydal, was fourth (+0.9).

The next American was Nick Hendrickson (now University of Utah, former U.S. Nordic Combined) in 10th (+27.6). Finally, Skyler Kenna (APU) was 24th (+1:12.2) in the 39-racer field.

Novak earned 4,000 yuan (a little less than $600) for the third-place finish.

On the women’s side, Lauren Fritz (APU) finished 16th in the 3.8 k race, up two spots from her 18th place in Wednesday’s Vasaloppet China. She was 37.9 seconds back of women’s winner Li Xin of China.

Racing continues Saturday with a 1.2 k skate sprint at the same venue.

Results: Women | Men

— Gavin Kentch

Jan. 5 Roundup: Cheating in Worldloppets; Ustiugov on Public Perception; Sundby Defends Russians

– According to the International Association of Worldloppet Skiers (IAWLS) in a Dec. 29 post on its website, cheating has infiltrated the highest level of master’s cross-country ski racing, with a system that’s existed for “many years” and was carried out by multiple participants.

The scheme was a bit elaborate, so bear with us:

One racer would carry the timing chip of another skier who didn’t race, nor was anywhere near the race, in their pocket during the Worldloppet marathon. The racer also had their own timing chip, which registered at the start, finish and throughout checkpoints on the course — as did the chip in their pocket.

After the race, two Worldloppet passports were stamped, and two Master Diplomas were later granted — one for the person that raced and one for the one that didn’t.

This has created problems with results across the circuit, spanning for several years.

“This means there are many invalid Master diplomas today, shown in WL webpages,” the IAWLS noted. “According to the rules, both skiers involved in the scheme are disqualified and if a Master diploma contains a disqualified race that Master and all results in it become invalid.”

A working group of investigators found that this cheating pattern dates back to 2011.

“The chips indicate identical times (intermediate and finish) of two members of the cheating group whereas the pictures/videos show the presence of only one skier (pictures of the second skier are not available for the good reason that he did not ski the race),” the post noted. “A report on these findings was sent to WL who handled the case at their annual Worldloppet Congress in June 2016. The investigating work group making the reports was all IAWLS members and this cheating system was also discovered by IAWLS members.”

“This massive and unprecedented cheating led to strong reactions,” it continued. “WL-congress made some statements and decisions which included to delete all cheat results and affected masters already submitted. This was after carefully analyzing the documents, connected pictures and films in reports given to them. And WL also made a statement saying that the cheats are no more welcome at any of the Worldloppet races. This means that no new WL Master applications will be accepted from this group of cheats. These are very strong and clear words from WL.”

 

– The man dominating the Tour de Ski through four stages so far, Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov  gets the impression that some of his competitors think he’s not competing clean.

“Honestly, I do not know. Perhaps some of the athletes look at me strangely. I do not know,” he told the media on the first day of the Tour, according to Ski-Lines.com. A reporter asked him if it was possible for a Russian to win and not be suspected of doping.

“It is unpleasant to hear that if you are Russian and perform well, you are probably using performance enhancing drugs,” he responded. “I do not like that people think like this and ask questions like these.”

At least Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby vouches for him. Currently second to Ustiugov in the Tour, Sundby has said that he is absolutely sure that the Russian skiers are not doping, Ski-Lines reported.

“I trust them [the Russian cross-country skiers] 100 percent,” Sundby said. “I have easily performed with them for 17 years, and we have a long history of struggle on the road. I trust these guys.”

 

– On Dec. 30, Russian athletes continued to be in the news as the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) announced its decision to provisionally suspend four Russian skeleton racers for violating the anti-doping rules during the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, according to Tass. The IBSF was informed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that an investigation was opened regarding the violations, which led the IBSF to suspend four Russian skeleton athletes effective Dec. 30, 2016. Russian skeleton racers won two medals at the Sochi Olympics. Alexander Tretiakov won gold and Yelena Nikitina earned bronze. Also on Dec. 30, six Russian cross-country skiers, including 2014 Olympic champion Alexander Legkov, were subject to provisional suspensions as well by FIS since their urine samples were allegedly tampered with.  This is all laid out in the McLaren report where over 1,000 Russian athletes were named.

 

– French biathlete Simon Fourcade has been diagnosed with toxoplasmosis, according to a post on his Facebook page on Dec. 28. Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic disease that is caused by toxoplasmas, and is usually transmitted through undercooked meat, in soil or in cat feces. There are usually no symptoms in adults, but it mimic the flu.

“The rate of testing are unusually high and suggest the presence of the parasite in your body and an infection relatively recent,” Fourcade quoted the results of his blood tests.

After struggling the last two IBU World Cups, the older brother of Martin Fourcade now knows why he was getting fatigued so quickly in recent few weeks. There is no special treatment for toxoplasmosis so he planned to rest and work on getting back into shape before returning to racing in 2017. Fourcade will have to work his way back up to the top form once he returns.

 

– Not that we need another reason to get out and ski, but a recent study done by the Mayo Clinic generated a list of the 36 most popular forms of exercise and their caloric impacts. The study is based off a 200-pound individual working out for an hour. Cross-country skiing came in at 15th on the list, burning 619 calories/hour. Other popular sports on the list were: #7) Tennis (728 calories/hr.), #6) Running at 5 mph (755 calories/hr.) and #4) Swimming (892 calories/hr.). The No. 1 exercises were: running at 8 mph which burns 1,074 calories/hr, and skipping rope which also burns 1,074 calories/hr, according to Business Insider.

 

– On Dec. 26, the Italian Team Sprint Championships took place at Fiera di Primiero in Trentino, Italy. The five-time defending champions Federico Pellegrino and Dietmar Nöckler were looking to win their sixth title, but collided during an exchange, which resulted in Pellegrino breaking his pole and the pair being disqualified, according to a FIS news release. This opened the door for Maicol Rastelli and Fabio Pasini to take the overall win.

In the women’s race, Gaia Vuerich and Debora Roncari took the team victory while Ilaria Debertolis crashed out of contention on the final corner after making contact with Vuerich.

— Ian Tovell and Alex Kochon 

Hendrickson Repeats as Top American in 6th in China TDS Stage 2

Racers from China, Norway, and the Czech Republic prepare for the start in the men’s freestyle sprint final at Stage 2 of the 2017 China Tour de Ski. (Photo: China Tour de Ski/tourdeskichina.com)

Racers from China, Norway, and the Czech Republic prepare for the start in the men’s freestyle sprint final at Stage 2 of the 2017 China Tour de Ski. (Photo: China Tour de Ski/tourdeskichina.com)

It was déjà vu all over again in Stage 2 of the China Tour de Ski, as Nick Hendrickson (now University of Utah, former U.S. Nordic Combined) led four American skiers with a sixth place finish in the semifinals of a 1.5-kilometer freestyle sprint for the second stage in a row.

Stage 2 brought the racers, 40 men and 36 women, to Changchun, in China’s Jilin region, closer to Vladivostok than to Beijing. Race-time temperatures were -11 Celsius, or 12° F, for the one-lap, 1.5 k skate sprint.

Hendrickson was consistent throughout the day, qualifying in sixth and ultimately advancing to the semifinal for a final position of sixth. Jack Novak (APU) qualified in 10th, and ended his day in the quarterfinals in 14th. Skyler Kenna (APU) finished 25th today, out of the 16-person heats, after qualifying in 16th in Sunday’s Stage 1.

The sole American woman, Lauren Fritz (APU), moved up relative to Sunday, after enduring several days’ worth of missing luggage to start her trip and racing Sunday on borrowed equipment. Today she qualified in seventh and finished 11th overall, after qualifying 10th and finishing 14th in Stage 1.

Overall winners today were China’s Zhu Mingliang for the men and Man Dandan for the women. Sprint races in the China Tour de Ski feature four-person heats.

Racing continues tomorrow with Stage 3, the Vasaloppet China, a 50 k classic mass start race in Changchun’s Jingyuetan Park.

Results: Women | Men

— Gavin Kentch

Hendrickson Leads Americans in 6th in China TDS Stage 1

Norway's Haakon Hjelstuen crossing the line first for the win in the men's freestyle sprint at Stage 1 of the 2017 China Tour de Ski. (Photo: China Tour de Ski/tourdeskichina.com)

Norway’s Haakon Hjelstuen crossing the line first for the win in the men’s freestyle sprint at Stage 1 of the 2017 China Tour de Ski. (Photo: China Tour de Ski/tourdeskichina.com)

All four Americans made the heats, with a final finishing position as high as sixth, in Stage 1 of the China Tour de Ski, a 1.5-kilometer freestyle sprint, in Changbaishan on Sunday, Jan 1.
On the men’s side, the top 20 qualifying times in a 40-racer field moved on to the heats. Jack Novak (APU) led the Americans in qualifying in 10th, Skyler Kenna (APU) was 16th, and Nick Hendrickson (now University of Utah, former U.S. Nordic Combined) was 17th. Their positions were largely reversed by the end of the day: Hendrickson finished second in the four-person semifinal for sixth overall, while Novak (16th) and Kenna (20th) ended their days in the quarterfinals.
For the women, Lauren Fritz (APU) qualified in 10th. (The women’s field was more selective than the men’s, with less than half of the field – 16 racers out of 36 – moving on.) Fritz ended her day in the quarterfinals in 14th overall.
Finishing times were not available for the heats. Both genders featured four-person heats throughout the day.
Norway’s Haakon Hjelstuen and China’s Li Xin took the Stage 1 victories and overall Tour lead.
Racers left Changbaishan at 8 a.m. local time Monday morning on an approximately 350-kilometer bus ride to Changchun, the site of Stages 2 and 3. Another skate sprint is Tuesday, followed by a classic marathon, 50 k for full Vasaloppet China racers but of unknown length for Tour racers, on Wednesday.
Results: Women | Men
— Gavin Kentch

Dec. 26 Roundup: Ski to Sea Decides to Keep XC; Northug Skips Tour; Fischer and Rossi Team Up

Brian Gregg (l) with his Boundary Bay team, which won its fourth-straight Ski to Sea title on May 25, 2014. (Photo: Brian Gregg/Facebook)

Brian Gregg (far left) with his 2014 Boundary Bay ‘Ski to Sea’ team, which won its fourth-straight Ski to Sea title on May 25, 2014. (Photo: Brian Gregg/Facebook)

– A week ago on Monday, Dec. 19, the Ski to Sea team relay race announced that it was eliminating the cross-country ski leg in the upcoming edition of the race on May 28, 2017, according to The Bellingham Herald. Organizers cited a recruitment problem for teams when it came to finding cross-country skiers and considered swapping out the nordic leg for something else. But ultimately, they simply cut it, making the relay consist of six legs: downhill skiing, running, road biking, canoeing, cyclocross, and kayaking.

“When we looked through our registration records and saw that we had so many teams that were full except for a cross-country skier, we knew this was the right choice. It’s something we have been hearing from races for years,” race director Anna Rankin said.

Less than 24 hours after the Ski to Sea board decided to nix XC, it reversed its decision, The Bellingham Herald reported. Organizers stated that they take public concern very seriously, as there was a lot of disagreement on their Facebook page after the Monday decision.

“We want to thank everyone who has reached out via the phone, email and here on Facebook to share your thoughts about the decision to drop the Cross County Ski leg of the race,” the post read.

The comments from racers were varied, but the initial decision turned off a few racers who proclaimed that they were done with the Ski to Sea. One participant, Heather Orthmer wrote, “Horrible horrible HORRIBLE decision. My team (and many others) has been racing for 20+ Years and now this?! You are destroying OUR race. The x-country leg is as essential to the race as our x-country skier is to our team! Would love to see the event in the hands of people who have a clue. Do we have any options? I will definitely boycott the race this year!”

 

– Petter Northug will not be racing in the upcoming Tour de Ski even after all of his efforts to get back into shape. According to Ski-Nordique.net, even with his rest in December he still has very low energy and will be unable to successfully race in the next part of the Tour de Ski. Northug is hoping to be strong enough during the second half of the season especially for the Lahti World Championships in February. A three-time 2015 world champion, Northug plans to return and defend his titles. He will be replaced on the Tour by Sjur Røthe.

 

– Two of the world’s biggest nordic-ski brands, Fischer and Rossignol are teaming up to launch a new brand called TURNAMIC, according to a joint press release. This new brand sets out to enhance the performance and usability of both their product portfolios and will consist of cross-country boot soles and bindings. According to the press release, skiers of all abilities will be able to benefit from the innovative and easy-to-use turn lock mechanism that makes entry and exit easier than before. For the first time, it will be possible to adjust setting without the use of any tools. This optimized setup will be available for everyday use with the NNN profile.

— Ian Tovell

Dec. 18 Roundup: Broomhall Turns 97; Di Centa is Back

– Wendell “Chummy” Broomhall celebrated his 97th birthday on Dec. 3 and reminisced with a reporter from The Advertiser Democrat about being a two-time Olympian and World War II veteran at the Maine Veterans’ Home in Paris, Maine. Broomhall who was born in 1919 in Mexico, Maine, but grew up across the river in Rumford, where he and his 14 siblings grew up on a dairy farm.

“They called me Chubby,” he said. “I was a little chubby guy, but when you get up on a farm you don’t stay chubby at all. They put you to work. They started calling me Chummy and that stuck with me the rest of my life.”

Broomhall ski raced, and went to war, then returned to racing once again. He qualified for the 1948 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz as well as the 1952 Olso Olympics. He served as chief of competition for the 1960 Squaw Valley Olympics and 1980 Lake Placid Olympics, where he also designed the ski trails for both Games.

Upon returning from WWII, Broomhall donated 300 acres to the club, which was used to create ski facilities. The Black Mountain of Maine officially opened in 1962, where Broomhall also designed the trails.

“In 1960, there wasn’t anybody around there that did anything about cross-country so they made me the American representative to Federation of International Ski – the world governing body,” he explained.

Racing against the Swedes, which didn’t lose training time to WWII, Broomhall said he was at a disadvantage.

“I was skiing on solid hickory skis and one of my skis weighed as much as three of the Swedes skis,” he said.

Today, Broomhall is the oldest member of Rumford’s Chisholm Ski Club. He was inducted into the National Ski Hall of Fame in 1981 and was an inaugural member of the Maine Ski Hall of Fame in 2003.

 

– Italy’s 44-year-old Giorgio Di Centa has come out of retirement and returned to the World Cup after placing 41st last weekend in the 30 k freestyle in Davos, Switzerland. He followed that up with 38th on Saturday in the men’s 15 k freestyle mass start. According to OAsport, Italy planned to use the La Clusaz World Cup as an opportunity to experiment with its lineup before 2017 World Championships, and Di Centa is aiming for a spot on that World Championship team.

 

– Therese Johaug’s provisional two-month suspension has been extended until Feb. 19, according to Anti-Doping Norway. She had initially been suspend until Sunday, Dec. 18, but Niels Kiaer, Norway’s anti-doping agent, extended it pending the outcome of her case, CBC.com reported. Last month is when the agency called for her 14-month ban and filed charges with the Norwegian Sports Federation’s disciplinary committee, which will hold a verbal hearing scheduled for Jan. 25-27.  Her provisional suspension will count toward her 14-month ban making her eligible to race in December 2017, two months before the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, where Johaug is hoping to compete.

 

– Did you ever want to be able to see how the conditions were at your favorite cross-country skiing trails, but didn’t want to pick up the phone and call?  Now you can check online with xctrailtracker.com.  This is a free website for nordic skiers to post reports and read other skier reports of trail conditions.  This can help you figure out where the best skiing is, how the trails are holding up after that rain storm, or see the popular spots in your area. This is completely user based, so if your favorite trails are not on the map you can add them. The best part is, on your next trip to Norway, you can use this application to ski the same course the World Cup skiers race.  This only works if you help update their map, so help your fellow skier find the best skiing in the area with XC Trail Tracker.

 

– The International Ski Federation (FIS) released its new official mobile application on Friday, Dec. 16. The FIS App offer users an entirely new experience to follow all FIS competitions and related news.  Some of the features include, exclusive video content, ability to favorite athletes, and notifications to stay up to date on your favorite World Cup competitions.  Use the FIS App to follow your favorite athlete in the next World Cup.

 

– The second International Biathlon Union (IBU) IBU Cup took place Dec. 6-11 in Ridnaun-Val Ridanna, Italy.  Canadian Emma Lunder was the best North American finisher in the women’s 7.5 k sprint, where she finished 15th (+1:54.7) with 9-for-10 shooting (1+0), behind Ukrainian winner Anastasiya Merkushyna, who cleaned the two-stage race and won in 21:11.8. All of the top three shot clean with Russia’s Uliana Kaisheva in second (+34.6), while Karolin Horchler of Germany in third (+50.5).

Lunder duplicated her 15th place in the 10 k pursuit, despite five penalties (1+2+0+2) finishing 4:03.4 behind Kaisheva, who won in 31:48.6 with her second-straight day of perfect shooting (0+0+0+0).  Horchler ended up second (+1:24.7) with two penalties, and her sister Nadine Horchler was close behind in third (+1:36.1), with one penalty. Lunder was called up to the IBU World Cup for this weekend, where she placed 82nd in the sprint in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic.

Results: Sprint | Pursuit

 

– The brand-new IBU Junior Cup circuit kicked off in Dec. 9-11 in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.  The only North American racing was Canadian Emily Dickson, who shot clean for 11th in the 7.5 k sprint. She  finished 1:43.6 behind French winner Caroline Colombo, who also hit every target to win in 21:10.9. Dickson was one of just four skiers to shoot clean. Khrystyna Dmytrenko of Ukraine placed second (+6.5) with clean shooting, while Vanessa Voigt of Germany finished third (+36.8) with one miss.

In the 12.5 k pursuit the day before, Dickson placed 38th with six penalties (1+2+1+2), each adding a minute to her time. She finished 7:57.7 behind French winner Julia Simon, who took the win in 38:19.7 despite two misses, finishing ahead of Germany’s Janina Hettich, who cleaned for second place (+58.6). Ekaterina Moshikova of Russia finished third (+2:00.4) with two penalties.

Results: Individual | Sprint

— Ian Tovell

Dec. 11 Roundup: Tongan Summer Athlete Takes Up XC; La Clusaz is a Go

— You might not know the name Pita Taufatofua, but you would probably recognize him. Taufatofua, the taekwondo athlete from Tonga made world news after his oiled body appeared during the opening ceremonies during the Rio 2016 Olympics. Though he was eliminated in the first round, he now has his sights set on the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics in South Korea, where he is hoping to compete in cross-country skiing, according to InsidetheGames.

According to MSN, Taufatofua said, “I’m going to be taking my Olympic dreams on step further. My goal is to let people see if I can do it, they can do it.”

Taufatofua would only be the second Winter Olympian from Tonga if he succeeds in qualifying. Bruno Banani competed in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic in luge.

— The FIS Cross-Country World Cup in La Clusaz, France, will take place as scheduled next weekend, Dec. 17-18, according to a FIS press release. The La Clusaz organizing committee has been working hard to ensure that the snow conditions are as good as they can be, considering the weather has been warmer than usual. There will be a shorter loop due to the lack of snow, but the women will race a 10 k skate and the men a 15 k skate on Dec. 17, and the men’s and women’s relays will be held on Dec. 18.

— The Canadian cross-country ski community lost another great ambassador. Walter Scott, the father of two-time Olympic medalist Beckie Scott and husband of Jan Scott, passed away on Dec. 5. According to a Cross Country Canada press release, Walter had a true passion for the outdoors, which he shared with everyone that he met. Immigrating from Europe, he found Canada, a place he believed had no limits. He was able to teach this philosophy to his daughter, who was able to become the first Canadian to win an Olympic gold in cross-country skiing. Walter was a volunteer, coach, and masters skier, and was in his element when he was on the ski trails. He was described as respectful, humble, fair, tough and driven to succeed.

— Ian Tovell

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