Vegard Ulvang: Different Opinions

FasterSkierDecember 31, 20092

The sport of cross-country skiing has changed dramatically over the past decades.  In a recent blog post, Vegard Ulvang, Chairman of the FIS Cross-Country Committee and an Olympic and World Champion, gathers some opinions and states the need to keep looking forward.

Reading newspapers and speaking to Cross-Country fans, athletes and coaches from different nations can sometimes be an interesting task. Here are some of the strongest quotes from the last months:

“Everything was better before. All the mass starts and bonus points and ski exchange have destroyed our sport,” say the Swedes.

“We must have more mass starts in the beginning of the season, else we lose interest and viewers in Germany”, says Jochen Behle.

“The many different distances, events and techniques have brought CC in wrong direction”, says biathlon star Ole Einar Bjørndalen.

“We want more action, more sprints and more city sprints”, say the Norwegian sprinters while others claim that this year’s calendar has too many sprints and too few relays.

Over the last 20 years Cross-Country has developed from a sport where every racer skied the same race weekend after weekend through the whole winter into a sport with two techniques and distance and sprint races. Therefore we have to expect discussions and various opinions. And not to forget that 22 different nations have taken World Cup points so far this season, and that we all come from different nations with a different ski history and cultural backgrounds. All the different opinions and discussion is after all positive for the development, and to be preferred over silence.

Development of a sport is not always a result of a decision in a FIS Committee. The skating technique developed because of better grooming machines and racers that looked for the fastest way to the finish line, and the sprint events developed because skiers born with the quickest muscle fibres also wanted to compete. Only one thing is sure: We cannot turn the clock backwards and dream about the good old days. In the FIS Cross-Country Committee there is no one asking for a removal of any of our events. Only time and interest will show if and when there is time to take away something.

Read the rest of Vegard’s blog post

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  • Lars

    December 31, 2009 at 11:17 pm

    I love the tour, but please do not make tours everywhere.
    It punishes the specialists, they get fewer races to participate. And for say sprint specialists from stronger nations it also can seriously hurt there chances in say the sprint WC. Wile say strong sprinters from nations with less dept might get to participate in the tour and there for get a competitive advantage.
    Also if last years world cup final is an indication small tours a just bad copy`s and kinda lame.
    As for the different race types i like most of them but miss the old style interval start 50k. That said mass starts can be very entertaining to like say the 50k in Trondheim last season. In that race the course was so hard that the pack broke up and there was action during the entire race. Unfortunately most mass start i have seen particularly on the mens side have been a large pack skiing together for almost the entire race and a sprint finish (won by Northug) at the end. And that is very boring.

    Also how about trying to get in 3 races per week ? That could possibly counter some of Bjørndalens criticism that there are so few races for each skier if they are specialists

  • OldManWinter

    January 1, 2010 at 9:38 am

    Has xc become so different from track with dramatically different distances and techniques? Can you imagine a Carl Lewis running a marathon, or a Frank Shorter sprinting? The sport needs stars, so here is an opportunity to create new ones(sprint, classical, skating and classical, within sprint and distance disciplines). Leave the overall title for the ‘decathlete’ of the bunch based upon some formula. I can easily visualize all that happening. In not doing so, my concern is that forcing the same athletes to pull the trigger every few days at wildly variable distances and disciplines will either: 1) promote watered-down performances, or 2) further encourage doping ala the TDF and professional bike racing in general.

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