You may applaud it’s fairness and simplicity, or you may think the policy reads like a paragraph out of Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron”, but like it or not, the United States Biathlon Association is implementing a “same wax” protocol throughout the December biathlon trials at Mt Itasca.
The waxing protocol will apply to both the IBU Cup Team Trials held December 12th – 22nd and the Jr/Youth World Team Trials, held December 19th – 22nd.
Standard waxes that will be used are listed as: TOKO Cold Powder, Holmenkol Matrix Blue and Holmenkol Matrix Red.
The main reason for mandatory waxing protocol, states the USBA, is that it “creates the most fair conditions”. A secondary reason is that it reduces the cost for clubs and USBA programs by eliminating both cost of wax and the need for extra staff.
Will this protocol really create the most fair conditions? It is a bold step by the USBA and highlights the fact that the organization is trying to make the qualifying process more about the athletes and less about the variables around them. For juniors who are less experienced with waxing and testing and rely solely on staff, and for those who have less support at races, this policy could read as a positive step. It could also eliminate excuses from athletes who may be on the bubble of qualification. And the fact that the USBA will give the required wax to those who do not have it seems a very fair gesture.
But even if you agree that equality in wax helps equalize the playing field, there is still the question if wax is in fact the common denominator of manageable variables. One skeptic asked FS the rhetorical question, “Why not make everyone race on the same grind and same skis, or take it a step further and just do it all on an erg?”
USBA allows for some adaptation in the waxing protocol (outlined below) by permitting the TD (technical delegate) to “modify the waxing protocol in order to make it less cumbersome and more effective”, if he first gets the go-ahead from the competition jury.
It will be interesting to see if these steps will be followed as-written, and to hear post-race comments from both racers and coaches on the actual implementation and effectiveness of the protocol.
The following is taken from Waxing Protocol for the 2010 IBU Cup Team Trials/Jr World Team Trials:
A committee of 5 coaches will be elected at the first coaches’ meeting on Friday, Dec 11. This committee will select the wax for each event. All teams should be sure to have a full range of: the chosen wax line. If an athlete or group of athletes does not have access to the “wax of the day” the wax will be provided to them by the TD at the wax room. In order to aid in the process of ski marking, athletes are asked to remove markings, stickers, tape, etc, in the area from 10 cm below the tip of the ski to the binding.
- All waxing of race skis must take place at the Mt Itasca waxing building between 7:30pm-9:30pm the night before each race. The “wax of the day” will be selected by 7:30pm by the waxing committee. All race skis need to be waxed and left unscraped, and then registered with the TD by 9:30pm. The TD will record serial numbers each ski stamped with the “stamp of the day.” Registered skis will be locked in the waxing building overnight. The wax room will be closed at 9:30pm.
- On race day, the wax room will be open 2hr30min hours prior to zero and coaches can scrape and brush skis. After scraping and brushing, skis need to be returned to the fenced in, numbered racks just outside the wax room. All registered race skis must remain in the numbered racks until 30 min prior to zero.
- Registered skis will be released to athletes 30 min before zero. Athletes have 20 minutes to test their skis and return the pair that they intend to race on to the starting corral. Skis must be returned to the corral 10 min prior to the opening of zero. Once skis leave the wax room the ski bases cannot be brushed or manipulated in anyway (structuring, corking, etc). As skis are returned to the starting corral, the serial numbers will be checked. Once a pair of skis has been brought to the corral, it cannot be removed or replaced. There will be numbered slots along the fence in the corral area so that athletes can put their skis in the slot that matches their bib number.
- Athletes found to have applied additional waxes, liquids, rub ons other than those announced as the “wax of the day” will be disqualified from the race.