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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.

Youngman Leads U.S. at 2017 Masters World Cup; Gray Finally Gets Gold

Multiple medalist Louise Wholey and U.S. team director John Downing on relay day at the 2017 Masters World Cup on March 10 in Klosters, Switzerland. (Photo: Masters World Cup 2017 Klosters)

By Inge Scheve

“I waited 55 years for this medal,” said Bob Gray.

Bob Gray receiving a bronze medal at the 2015 Masters World Cup in Syktyvkar, Russia. (Photo: Kent Murdoch)

The 77-year-old Vermonter won the 15-kilometer freestyle race in the M10 category (men age 75-80) at the 2017 Masters World Cup in Klosters, Switzerland, earlier this month.

Gray raced for the U.S. Ski Team from 1962 until 1974, but never earned a World Championships medal during that period.

“When I first came on the U.S. Ski Team in 1962, we were ten minutes behind the Europeans in the 15 k event,” he said. “When I left the U.S. Ski Team in 1974, we were three minutes behind in the 15 k.”

“It’s a lifelong dream for me to win a World Championship medal,” he continued. “I’m a frustrated athlete, you know.” Over the last two decades, Gray has participated in more than a dozen Masters World Cup events.

“The competitors get older and there are fewer of them, but in my mind, this was really satisfying,” he said.

The annual Masters World Cup represents an opportunity for skiers 30 and older to ski up to four races of regular World Cup distances in a week.

During the 2017 Masters World Cup in Klosters, U.S. skiers collected a total of 47 individual medals and four relay podium finishes. The Canadian team took home 12 individual medals and one relay podium finish.

A freestyle race at the 2017 Masters World Cup in early March in Klosters, Switzerland. (Photo: Masters World Cup 2017 Klosters)

Among the U.S. individual winners were Gray, Barry Makarewicz, who won two races, and Eric Martin, and for the women, Elizabeth Youngman, who notched three individual titles, Lindsey Bengtson (2), Laura McCabe (2), Trina Hosmer (2), Louise Wholey, and Carolyn Tiernan. For Canada, Silvia Stettler and Nancy Burden won two races apiece, and individual titles went to Pat Pearce, Barbara Turner and Robert Burden.

With two individual classic titles and a skate win as well, Youngman was part of the U.S. women’s gold-medal relay (with Magdalena Bowen, Muffy Ritz and McCabe) in the 4 x 5 k mixed technique race to end the seven-day championships.

The U.S. national director for the World Masters Cross-Country Ski Association (WMA), John Downing, who is also the president of the FIS Masters World Cup Association, said this year’s championships were a great showing for his team.

“When we bring large numbers to Europe, we always see results, that’s simple math,” he said. “When we have more skiers, we also have more upper-level skiers.”

Downing added that medals are not the most important aspect of the Masters World Cup event.

“We want every skier to feel welcome, regardless of level, and we want every ability skier to feel welcome to these events and walk away with good experiences,” he said.

Next year, the Masters World Cup moves to Minneapolis, and Downing is confident the Twin Cities will pull off a great championship week.

“The Loppet Foundation, which is the organizing committee for the 2018 Masters World Cup, has been awesome. They have a lot of resources and talented organizers,” he said.

“They have doubled their snow-making capacity in the last year, and they are ready to increase that even further,” he explained. “So you can easily fly into the Twin Cities and not see a flake of snow anywhere and still know that the organizers will have loop that wont drive people crazy to ski.”

The 2018 Masters World Cup is scheduled for Jan. 19-26, 2018.

2017 Masters World Cup: North American Medal Count

Race 1: Mid-distance skate

U.S. (11 total: 6 gold, 1 silver, 4 bronze)

  • Gold: Lindsey Bengtson (F1), Laura McCabe (F5), Elizabeth Youngman (F6), Louise Wholey (F10), Barry Makarawicz (M6), Bob Gray (M10)
  • Silver: Trina Hosmer (F9)
  • Bronze: Katie Meyer (F7), Carolyn Tiernan (F8), Shauna Thoreson (F11), Eric Martin (M5)

Canada (3 total: 1 gold, 2 silver)

  • Gold: Silvia Stettler (F8)
  • Silver: Nikki Kassel (F3), Barbara Turner (F5)

Race 2: Mid-distance classic

U.S. (4 total: 2 silver, 2 bronze)

  • Silver: Magdalena Bowen (F6), Barbara Lewis (F11)
  • Bronze: James Rucker (M2), Charles French (M12)

Race 3: Short-distance classic

U.S. (10 total: 2 gold, 4 silver, 4 bronze)

  • Gold: Elizabeth Youngman (F6), Trina Hosmer (F9)
  • Silver: Carolyn Tiernan (F8), Shauna Thoresen (F11), Del Pletcher (M9), Charles French (M12)
  • Bronze: Eric Martin (M3), Barry Makarawicz (M6), Barbara Lewis (F11), George Hall (M11)

Canada (1 total: 1 gold)

  • Gold: Pat Pierce (F7)

Race 4: Short-distance skate

U.S (7 total: 1 gold, 2 silver, 4 bronze)

  • Gold: Lindsey Bengston (F1)
  • Silver: Katie Meyer (F7), Shauna Thoresen (F11), Joanne Davis (F11)
  • Bronze: Kent Murdoch (M6), Abbie Spencer (F1), Louise Wholey (F10), Inge Scheve (F3)

Canada: (3 total: 3 gold)

  • Gold: Barbara Turner (F5), Nancy Burden (F6), Silvia Stettler (F8)

Race 5: Marathon skate

U.S. (10 total: 5 gold, 3 silver, 2 bronze)

  • Gold: Laura McCabe (F5), Carolyn Tiernan (F8), Trina Hosmer (F9), Eric Martin (M3), Barry Makarawicz (M6)
  • Silver: Lindsey Bengston (F1), Shauna Thoresen (F11), Bob Gray (M10)
  • Bronze: Louise Wholey (F10), Joanne Davis (F11)

Canada (3 total: 1 gold, 2 silver)

  • Gold: Nancy Burden (F6)
  • Silver: Nikki Kassel (F3), Barbara Turner (F5)

Race 6: Marathon classic

(Note: Race course was shortened due to avalanche in the upper end of the valley)

U.S. (5 total: 1 gold, 3 silver, 1 bronze)

  • Gold: Elizabeth Youngman (F6)
  • Silver: Barbara Lewis (F11), George Hall (M11), Charles French (M12)
  • Bronze: James Rucker (M2)

Canada (2 total: 2 silver)

  • Silver: Pat Pierce (F7), Silvia Stettler (F8)

Relays

U.S. (4 total: 1 gold, 3 silver)

  • Gold: Elizabeth Youngman, Magdalena Bowen, Muffy Ritz, Laura McCabe (F3)
  • Silver: Chris Clark, Wilhelm Northrop, Seth Downs, Eric Martin (M4); Odd Bersvendsen, Richard Powell, Barry Makarawicz, Kent Murdoch (M6); Trina Hosmer, Connie Meek, Louise Wholey, Carol Monteverde (F5)

Canada (1 total: 1 silver)

  • Silver: Pat Pierce, Lois Johnston, Silvia Stettler, Maureen Clement (F4)

Complete results

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

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