(translated from ski-nordique.net 11-4-09, “Northug et Cologna sous le même maillot ? ” and langrenn.com “Ulvang mener Northug må få sin del av landslagskaka” 11-4 09)
Leaders of the nordic ski world often look to cycling for ideas on how to advance the sport of skiing. Could the next similiarity come in the creation of more private teams ? With many national teams experiencing financial problems, the incentives to join a private team with larger funding could be very real. Perhaps if the top athletes join private teams, the national federations could then focus on the whole infrastructure of developing the younger athletes.
One example of a private professional team is Team Xtra Personell. Started in 2006, its team members consist of Jerry Ahrlin, Jens Arne Svartedal, Jorgen Aukland, and Anders Aukland. It is a team fully funded by sponsors and it provides structure through a full staff of founders, coaches, trainers, technicians, and others. But its relationship with the Norwegian Federation has not been good, and at times has brought penalties for the members of team Xtra.
Vegard Ulvang, head of the FIS, is a sworn supporter of the current model of national teams, wherein the best skiers in the nation are on one national team. He acknowledges the fact that some of the younger skiers, such as Peter Northug of Norway, do not feel they are fairly compensated by their national teams and so have recently considered joining private teams, but says to do this would be disruptive and very negative for the sport.
Ulvang thinks the Ski Federation needs to find a way for the top skiers to get compensated fairly by their national teams so that they are earning a bigger slice of the cake.
Of differing opinion is Fredrik Aukland, head coach of the Swiss national team and advisor to Team Xtra Personell, who firmly beleives in the future of private teams. He thinks it would not be unrealistic to see Swiss skier Dario Cologne and Northug on the same team in the future.