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June 9 Roundup: Ward Tapped as Biathlon Canada HP Director; John Bower Passes

Biathlon Canada has a new high-performance director: women’s national-team coach Roddy Ward. The announcement was made on Biathlon Canada’s website, following the departure of Eric de Nys earlier this spring.

“We are delighted to have Roddy in the role of High-Performance Director,” Biathlon Canada General Manager Andy Holmwood said, according to the press release. “He brings a strong understanding of biathlon at the international level combined with unique insight to the sport. We are confident both our development and high-performance programs will progress under his leadership.”

A Canmore native, Ward previously competed in biathlon and earned a master’s in education with an emphasis on coaching from the University of Victoria. He has spent “the past several seasons” as a Biathlon Canada national-team coach and will continue to coach the women’s team “in a dual role through the 2018 Olympics”, according to the press release.

 


John Bower, an Olympic nordic-combined skier and U.S. Ski Team nordic director, passed away earlier this week. (Photo: USSA)

– On Tuesday, June 6, former nordic-combined athlete and U.S. Ski Team nordic director John Bower passed away at the age of 76 in Park City, Utah. Bower was an Olympian and the first American to win the prestigious nordic-combined King’s Cup. According to a U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association (USSA) press release, Bower was instrumental in the development of the Utah Olympic Park and its Olympic legacy facilities in Park City.

Growing up in Auburn, Maine, he became the first skier to win four interscholastic state titles in 1959 at Edward Little High School. In 1961, Bower became the first Middlebury College skier to win an NCAA nordic-combined title and totaled four national titles in his career. He competed at two Olympics in 1964 and 1968, placing 13th and 15th for the best finishes by an American nordic combined skier at the time.

“His milestone accomplishment came at Norway’s Holmenkollen Ski Festival in 1968 where he became the first American to win the prestigious King’s Cup,” the press release explained. “His win at Holmenkollen set the standard for other Americans who followed him including Kerry Lynch (1983), Todd Lodwick (1998), Bill Demong (2009) and Bryan Fletcher (2012). The victory earned him an audience with the king of Norway in Oslo, as well as an invitation to a White House dinner in the king’s honor later that year.”

Bower later coached at Middlebury from 1968 to 1975 and was the U.S. Ski Team (USST) nordic director from 1975 to 1980 — “a highly successful period for the American team” — before serving as athletic director at Principia College in western Illinois. He returned to his post as USST nordic director from 1988-1990.

“John Bower is a great example of a highly accomplished skier who dedicated his entire life to helping other athletes,” USSA President and CEO Tiger Shaw said in the press release. “In particular, his work in developing the Utah Olympic Park leading up to the 2002 Olympics was a key part of the legacy that is still positively impacting athletes today.”

Bower was the first director of Utah Winter Sports Park (now the Utah Olympic Park), who oversaw the development of venues and programs from 1990 to 1999 in the leadup to the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics. He was named to the U.S. Ski Hall of Fame in 1969 and is one of Maine’s most recognized sport stars and a member of the Maine Ski Hall of Fame and Lewiston Auburn Sports Hall of Fame. Middlebury selected Bower to its Hall of Fame in 2014, and he is an honorary member of the Alf Engen Ski Museum Foundation board.

 

– Also on Tuesday, Norway’s Therese Johaug attended a Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) hearing regarding an appeal by the International Ski Federation (FIS) opposing her 13-month ban. The CAS ruling, which could still be several months away, will determine whether Johaug will be able to compete at the 2018 Winter Olympics. FIS is aiming to extend her ban as it claims the 13-month suspension, handed down by the Norwegian Olympic and Paralympic Committee and Confederation of Sports’ (NIF) Adjudication Committee, was too lenient, InsidetheGames reported.

FIS appears to be aiming for a 16-20 month suspension, which would cause her to miss the upcoming Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. Meanwhile, Johaug is still training as usual, with a month-long, extremely high (3,000 meters, nearly 10,000 feet) altitude camp planned in Aspen, Colo., sometime before October, according to NRK.

Her coach Pål Gunnar Mikkelsplass claimed her spring and summer tests show she’s in better shape than ever.

“I have had good test results,” Johaug told NRK after Tuesday’s hearing, according to a loose translation. “I have had continuity in training and can focus on just myself. It’s not that I’m necessarily skiing faster, but at least it’s good for me to see that after all I’ve been through, it hasn’t made me a worse skier.”

 

 

– The British Nordic team recently named four skiers to its elite cross-country team for the 2017/2018 World Cup season. The four athletes, Andrew Musgrave, Andrew Young, Callum Smith, and Annika Taylor, all met team criteria for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. Last season, Musgrave placed fourth in the World Championships 50-kilometer freestyle mass start and had the second-fastest time of day in the season-ending 15 k freestyle pursuit at World Cup Finals. In 2015/2016, Young placed third in a World Cup sprint in Toblach, Italy. The lone woman on the team, Taylor is originally from California.

Great Britain sent four athletes to the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, where it posted results outside the top 10. But with Norwegians Hans Kristian Stadheim and Jostein Vinjerui onboard as specialist coaches, the team is optimistic about its future.

“We are coming into a very exciting time for British Nordic,” Britain’s head coach Roy Young told InsidetheGames. “We have athletes who are capable of podium finishes at world-class level, and it is looking like we will take at least four athletes to Pyeongchang 2018 to represent Team GB.”

 

– FIS approved a Women’s Nordic Combined Continental Cup during its annual meeting in Portoroz, Slovenia. The first race will be hosted by Otepää, Estonia, in January 2018. There will be three races total, with the last race being shared with the men in Nizhny Tagil, Russia. There is currently no senior Nordic Combined World Cup for women, nor is it an Olympic discipline. There will be a test for a Junior World Championships this season, while a Youth Cup took place last year. USSA also announced it will host an inaugural Women’s Nordic Combined National Championships in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Oct. 7. USA Nordic Executive Director Billy Demong explained that the addition of women’s events both nationally and internationally has been one of USA Nordic’s goals.

“We are committed to keeping up and, to the best of our resources, staying ahead of the world as this event makes its debut at the senior level,” he told InsidetheGames. “This is an opportunity that we are fully behind.”

 

Visma Ski Classics Climb leader “lumberjack” bib

– For its eighth season, the Visma Ski Classics is introducing a new climbing competition for pro competitors and will reward its leaders with a red-and-black checkered lumberjack bib. Pro Team racers can collect points at eight different checkpoints (at the top of hills), according to a Ski Classics press release, and the highest-scoring male and female athlete at the end of the season will be crowned “Climb champion” and collect prize money at the final gala in Levi, Finland. The leaders of the legends standings, Anders Auckland and Seraina Boner will start the season wearing these brand-new bibs.

— Alex Kochon and Ian Tovell

May 26 Roundup: CAS Date for Johaug, Chevalier Hit by Car, Russian Athletes May Miss Paralympics

Therese Johaug has a date for her hearing before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). A schedule published by CAS shows that Johaug is on the docket for June 6th. The Norwegian Olympic Committee suspended the Norwegian cross-country ski star for 13 months for testing positive for the steroid clostebol; the International Ski Federation (FIS) is appealing that decision, seeking a longer ban.

– French biathlete Anais Chevalier, the bronze medalist in the World Championships sprint this past season, was hit by a car while training and has broken her collarbone. The 24-year-old will take about a month away from regular training to recover. “I’m angry, motorists, we are naked when we are cycling!!” she wrote on her Facebook page, according to a translation. “Thanks for not playing with our lives.”

– The Visma Ski Classics long-distance race series has released its 2017-2018 competition schedule. Two of last year’s events have been dropped: the Vasaloppet China, and the Årefjällsloppet.

– The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has decided that if the Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC) does not meet their obligations to address its doping scandal by September, then there is a good possibility that Russian athletes will not be allowed to enter the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.

“This is not quite a final warning, but it is saying we are running out of time fast,” IPC President Philip Craven told the Associated Press. “With each day that passes there’s time to sort this one out. The RPC and Russian authorities need to build trust in their actions and prove to us all that from now on sport really is about morals over medals and not the other way round.”

The IPC governing board unanimously decided not to lift the suspension on the RPC after an update from the IPC task force that was appointed to monitor the RPC. The task force will update the IPC once more in September.

-The Finnish Ski Association has nominated 20 skiers for their national teams. Reijo Jylhä will continue as the head coach for both the women and men’s teams, with Teemu Pasanen coaching the distance skiers and Olli Ohtonen coaching the sprints, according to FIS.  The notable members are Matti Heikkinen, Krista 
Pärmäkoski, and Kerttu Niskanen.

-Swedish Paralympic gold medalist Helena Ripa has decided to retire and not attempt to qualify for the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Game. At the age of 46, she will devote her time to her other passion of Para canoe according to a press release from paralympic.org.

“I have always been driven by being able to perform to the fullest at the highest level. But the driving force is not there anymore whilst skiing and feel I do not have much else to give to the sport,” according to Ripa.

-Two time Olympic cross-country champion, Charlotte Kalla has decided to train outside of the Swedish National team again in order to prepare for the upcoming season. The 29-year old spent the 20016-2017 campaign on her own, and confirmed she will be doing the same thing this year.

“I have decided to remain outside the national team for the upcoming training season in favor of developing cooperation with the group who were around me for the last training season,” Kalla said according to Inside the Games.

May 18 Roundup: Britain Hires Norwegians, Northug News, Weng Runs for a Cause

-The British Nordic Team has announced the appointment of two Norwegian coaches, Hans Kristian Stadheim and Jostein Vinjerui. Stadheim joins the team as the distance coach. He was previously with marathon specialist Team Leaseplan in Norway, and before that coached the two-time Norwegian relay champions, Lyn Ski.

“I want to help Great Britain to become a nation to be reckoned with in Cross Country – not only in the build up to Pyeongchang 2018, but also as we work towards Beijing 2022,” Stadheim said, according to Inside The Games.

Vinjerui will be the sprint performance coach. He previously coached the Norwegian Ski Federation’s regional team, and already was working with a British athlete, Andrew Young. Vinjerui was the coach for the Icelandic national team for two seasons as well.

“I am delighted to work with Hans Kristian to help develop the team towards PyeongChang and beyond, and also look to help them win medals,” Vinjerui said.

The Brits are also extending their partnership with the Lillehammer Nordic Ski Club; several of their athletes have been based in Lillehammer previously. That means that local athletes Marthe Bjørnsgaard and Mari Støen Gussiås will join the training group. They had already been training partners for Annika Taylor.

“This is probably the first of many exciting collaborative projects that will see the light of day between the two parties in the coming years,” Lillehammer coach Jostein Buraas said in British Nordic’s Facebook .

Tomas Northug, Norwegian cross-country skier and the younger brother of Petter Northug Jr., has announced that he will be retiring at the age of 27. He won a FIS World Cup Sprint in Otepää, Estonia, in 2015, which helped him get called up to the Norwegian squad for that season’s World Championships in Falun, Sweden. Once there, he finished sixth in the sprint as his brother Petter took gold.

“Thanks to all who have contributed to this journey,” Tomas Northug wrote in Norwegian in an Instagram post.

-Canada’s 10-time Paralympic champion Brian McKeever looks back on the season over at the  World Para Nordic Skiing website, and considers the Red Bull Nordenskiöldsloppet in Jokkmook, Sweden, a highlight. McKeever is coming off a very successful season that saw him win two gold medals at the World Championships in Finsterau, Germany. He also placde 20th at the Vasaloppet, Sweden’s 90 k marathon and one of the premier long-distance ski races in the world. He ended his season further north at the 220 Km Red Bull Nordenskiöldsloppet, which is the world’s oldest and longest ski race.

“One thing is for sure, I’ll never look at 6-7 hour training sessions as being long ever again,” McKeever said.

Heidi Weng and Petter Northug participated in the Red Bull Wings for Life World Run in Norway on May 7. Over 150,000 people start at the same time and are chased by “catcher cars” at several locations around the world, unloading, Munich, Vienna, Chile, USA, Italy, etc. according to langrenn.com. The goal of the race is to get as far as possible before the car driving at a constant speed catches you. Northug got 23k, while Weng was able to get to 28.23 kilometers. Northug left the race before he was caught so he is officially listed as DNF.

–Ian Tovell

May 4 Roundup: South Korean Team Shakeup; Lamy Chappuis Returns

— Four male cross-country skiers from South Korea were recently suspended from the national team after being caught drinking during the Asian Winter Games in February in Sapporo, Japan. The four athletes were banned for six months after being caught drinking at the Games and reportedly saying they drank two cans of beer, according to the Korea Herald. Wanting to send a message, the Korea Ski Association handed the four men six-month suspensions to discourage a similar incident from happening again at international competitions. The South Korean men’s national team is now down to two skiers, Kim Magnus and Cho Yong-jin, who did not take part in the drinking.The KSA decided not to renew three coaching contracts and will hire a new staff for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.

 

— Jason Lamy Chappuis is making a comeback after a year away from competing in nordic combined at the highest level, according to the French Ski Association. A 10-time World Championships medalist (with five golds and an Olympic gold in 2010), Lamy Chappuis put his career on hold to pursue his other passion: flying. He completed his commercial pilot education last week and plans to compete during the upcoming 2017/2018 season before retiring to become a full-time pilot for Air France.

“It will be very difficult to come back, as I spent two years without ski jumping,” Lamy Chappuis, 30, said at a press conference. “But I am fit, I ran half marathons, I was registered at a gym center, I did not lose all my physical condition. There are many examples of athletes who have stopped their careers to come back. This pause allowed me to step back, to question myself and today I am more peaceful, and stronger in my head. I will not put myself under pressure, before I almost wanted to do too well.”

 

— The Czech cross-country team has a new head coach in IIkka Jarva, according to an announcement last week. He plans to spend 150 days a year with the team and will be joined by other Czech coaches starting in May for the first training camp.

“After 13 years of working as a cross-country ski coach in Finland, I feel really excited to work with the Czech team,” Java said, according to a team press release. “There are many young athletes and young coaches so we have a lot of energy to work hard. Hard work is the only way to succeed in our sport. I would like coaches and athletes to find a Czech way of success.”

 

— Former Swiss cross-country skier Peter von Allmen has accepted a position coaching the Swiss women’s cross-country team, Inside the Games reported. Von Allmen competed at the 2010 Olympics and started 70 World Cup races. With Dario Cologna being the only Swiss skier to earn a medal during the 2016/2017 season, von Allmen is aiming to propel the team to improved results.

“I am convinced that with my experience as an athlete and coach I can contribute to develop the athletes and give them new inputs,” he said. “Together with my coaches, I am already in the middle of the planning of the upcoming Olympics season.”

–Ian Tovell

April 7 Roundup: Ski Tour Canada Wins; Weng Top Earner; Østberg Potentially Done?

-The 11th annual Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance Prestige awards happened own March 21st in Ottawa, Canada according to a press release from Cross Country Canada. These awards recognize events from local to international championships and tournaments as well as honoring outstanding volunteers and organizations. Ski Tour Canada 2016 won the Canada Sport Event of the Year award. The tour consists of 12 days with the world’s best skiers coming from over 25 nations. It was part of the first World Cup Finals ever staged outside of Europe. By live streaming, the event it was able to reach an international audience of over 52 million viewers. The events were held in Gatineau, Montreal, and Quebec City, Quebec, and Canmore, Alberta.

Heidi Weng of Norway was the World Cup’s top earner with winnings of about $274,000 U.S. dollars according to News in English. Though Marit Bjørgen dominated the World Cup races she entered, she didn’t race a full schedule and Weng earned about double as much as Bjørgen (who earned roughly $152,800 U.S. dollars). Weng was able to earn more than the men’s overall winner Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby, who took home about $211,000 U.S. dollars. Canada’s Alex Harvey was fourth in the men’s prize money behind Russia’s Sergey Ustugov and Norway’s Johannes Høsflot Klæbo, earning roughly $74,770 US Dollars.

Calle Halfvarsson started the World Cup season with two wins before New Year, and was in possession of the yellow jersey for the overall lead. However, in January he suffered a cold that led to a prolonged sinus infection causing him to skip the Tour de Ski. As he was preparing for the World Championships in Lahti, his sinus kicked up him again. Halfvarsson is going to have surgery in order to fix his sinus, which has repeatedly bothered him for the last two seasons. He hopes that this will be the start of his preparation for the Olympic Games in South Korea, where he hopes to win his first individual Olympic medal. He should be back training in May according to sweski.com.

-Norway’s Ingvild Flugstad Østberg finished third overall in the World Cup standings, even after not having the season she was hoping for. She has started to play with the idea of retiring from skiing, according to Langrenn. However, a week after mentioning potentially retiring from the sport she stated that she has not evaluated the season and still has yet to make a final conclusion. She said she believe that she can be even better and enjoy skiing again in terms of training and competing.

March 17 Roundup: Randall Not Racing; Sundby Stays in Norway; Arendz Elected Athlete Rep

U.S. women’s team members training at World Cup Finals on Thursday in Quebec City. (Photo: USSA/Reese Brown)

– Despite training on Thursday, American Kikkan Randall will not be competing in the season-ending World Cup Finals in Québec City this Friday, Saturday and Sunday. According to a U.S. Ski Team press release, Randall was not feeling 100 percent during warmup training on Thursday and decided to sit out the races. Fourteen other women are slated to represent the U.S. in Friday’s freestyle sprint, 12 U.S. men, 15 Canadian women, and 15 Canadian men.

The World Cup track on the Plains of Abraham as seen on Friday morning before the freestyle sprint kicks off the World Cup Finals weekend in Quebec City, Quebec.

– This season’s overall and distance World Cup winner Martin Johnsrud Sundby of Norway will not be racing at World Cup Finals in Quebec this Friday through Sunday, March 17-19.

Instead, he’ll be racing for Team United Bakeries in Saturday’s 54-kilometer Norwegian Birkebeinerrennet, the 10th event of the Ski Classics series. Another Norwegian national-team member, Eirik Brandsdal will also be racing the Birkebeinerrennet from Rena to Lillehammer.

While the International Ski Federation (FIS) initially threatened to reduce Sundby’s prize money and bonuses if he didn’t come to Quebec, FIS Race Director Pierre Mignerey explained they retracted that by Monday.

“We have decided not to reduce the prize money, no matter what he or others will do,” Mignerey told NRK, according to a loose translation. “I do not quite understand why he did not come, but it’s his decision.”

The Norwegian Ski Federation’s media officer Gro Eide explained that Sundby wanted to spend the time with his family.

So while Sundby will miss the awards ceremony for his third Crystal Globe, Mignerey added that FIS will not likely change its rules to require top athletes to compete at every World Cup.

“My point is that we should not force any athletes or teams to participate, but that we should focus on setting up a World Cup calendar that is attractive to athletes, instead of trying to force anyone,” he said.

On the flip side, the Ski Classics is happy to have him.

“With Martin Johnsrud Sunday on the start line in Birken that, due to its topography, fits World Cup quality athletes quite well, we can look forward to another epic battle,” Ski Classics CEO David Nilsson said according to a press release. “I am sure Martin wants to show his strength against the tough long distance skiers, and they want to show him that long distance skiing is a sport for tough gentlemen …. now we can’t wait until Sunday!”

American Birkebeiner Executive Director Ben Popp caught up with Sundby earlier this week and posted the live video on the American Birkebeiner’s Facebook page. Sundby spoke about the possibility of doing the American Birkie in the future.

 

— Speaking of the Birkie, while this year’s annual ski marathon from Cable to Hayward, Wis., was canceled, the “world’s largest” fat-bike race took place on March 11 in Hayward, with the fifth annual Fat Bike Birkie. More than 1,200 riders participated in either the Big Fat, a 49 k race, or the Chico, a 20 k race, according to a Birkie press release. Bikers from more than 18 states and two nations competed on a brisk morning at the American Birkebeiner Trailhead. Due to unseasonably warm weather leading up to the event, the course was moved to an alternate looped course adjoining the Birkie Trail and included five laps for the Big Fat and two laps for the Chico.

Results: Big FatChico

 

– Mark Arendz of Canada’s Para-Nordic Ski Team was recently elected as the athlete representative for nordic skiing on the World Para Nordic Skiing’s Sport Technical Committee. According to World Para Nordic Skiing, Arendz, a 27-year-old skier who competes in the standing division of International Paralympic Committee (IPC) World Cups, received the most votes at the recent PyeongChang test event and World Cup. Arendz, a multiple World Cup and Paralympic medalist, gave a speech among his athletic peers about his goals of increasing participation in both biathlon and cross-country skiing. This will be a two-year term and Arendz is the third winter sport athlete to be voted on the Sport Technical Committee.

 

FIS Cross-Country is looking for feedback on competition formats, and which are of most interest to the public. Here is the link to its short survey.

 

– Darya Dómracheva, a Belarusian World Cup biathlete and multiple-time Olympic and World Championships gold medalist, has gone into retail and is selling a variety of merchandise, including buffs, coffee mugs, baby clothes, and smartphone cases, online at shop.daryadomracheva.by.

March 5 Roundup: Ski Classics Launches Nordic Trophy; NCAA Champs Coming Up in N.H.

– The Visma Ski Classics series is launching a new competition within the tour called the Visma Nordic Trophy, which will take place in Nordic countries. The competition started Sunday with the Vasaloppet in Sweden, the ninth event of the Ski Classics series. According to a Ski Classics press release, there will be prize money for the top three in both the men and women’s race. The next race will be the Birkebeinerrennet on March 18 in Norway.

 

– During 2017 Nordic World Championships in Lahti, Finland, the International Ski Federation (FIS) and Finnish Anti-Doping Agency spread the anti-doping message to athletes and coaches. At the athletes’ village in Vierumäki, Finland, competitors were given the opportunity to show their commitment to clean sport by signing a giant snowball as well as having their photo taken, according to a FIS press release. More than 400 athletes, coaches and support personnel joined the movement during the championships, held Feb. 22-March 5.

 

–  NCAA Skiing Championships will take place this coming week March 8-10, with cross-country races being held at the Jackson Ski Touring Center in Jackson, N.H., and alpine racing at Cannon Mountain in Franconia, N.H., hosted by the University of New Hampshire (UNH). According to the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association (EISA), the top-two teams from their division, Dartmouth and the University of Vermont (UVM), will be be vying for the overall NCAA title. The men’s overall cross-country leader, Fabian Stocek (Dartmouth) and the women’s overall winner Alayna Sonnesyn (UVM) will be looking to cap off their season with a NCAA title.

 

– For the second year in a row, the Stowe Derby, which was supposed to happen on Feb. 26 was canceled. This historic downhill cross-country race had been held since 1945, before being canceled last year due to lack of snow. It was canceled this year because of boiler-plate conditions, according to StoweToday.com. The Derby is one of the oldest races in North America and attracts 800 competitors annually.

— Ian Tovell

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

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 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

— Ian Tovell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Ian Tovell and Alex Kochon