The Johnny5: Fast Female

Johnny KlisterMay 27, 2010

pp class=”MsoNormal”Fast Female uses female athletes as role models to promote a fun and healthy lifestyle, fueling both the base and pinnacle of skiing.em  – Eileen Carey, MWSC director/em/p

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p class=”MsoNormal”It doesn’t speak extremely well of women’s skiing advocacy in the US when the best thing pushing progress is a Canadian-based program, though it does demonstrate the power of Fast Female.span  /spanFast Female is the brainchild of Chandra Crawford, best known for her stunning gold medal performance in the 2006 Olympic sprint.span  /spanIn the US, the Fast Female program has been adopted most successfully by Kikkan Randall, who, unlike most women was well-supported both athletically and culturally through her developing years as a skiers.span  /spanTo understand what and why fast female is important, a quick inventory of women’s skiing in the US is in order:/p
p class=”MsoNormal”span            /spanThere is no shortage of talented women in the sport in this country.span  /spanA quick look at the nominees for the Johnny5 reveal a large collection of skiers coaches pushing the status quo, from Montana State’s Grethe Hagensen to the work of Pepa Milocheva at the Craftsbury program.span  /spanFrom Holly Brooks and Kikkan Randall’s impressive 2010 respective performances on the national and international stages to Eileen Carey’s direction of four thousand events at the Maine Winter Sports Center in March of 2010.span  /spanSuccess, however, is overshadowed by a lack of depth and sustained power in women’s skiing.span  /spanComparing the top 100 men in cross country rankings, USSA points stop at 107 and are generally spread evenly across the range of points.span  /spanOn the women’s side, the 100supth/sup ranking woman in the USSA registers points of 142 with very few women scoring below 100pts./p
p class=”MsoNormal”span            /spanCoaching ranks similarly: only in college, where the competitive landscape lends credibility to women’s skiing since men and women are scored together and evenly in pursuit of an event win, are there a decent number of program directors.span  /spanThose numbers do remain a minority percentage but relative to the junior and elite ranks, they are monumental.span   /spanCoaching across all ranks remains an apprentice position. Despite the recent and on going efforts made by the USSA to develop a coaching education program.span  /spanCoaches gain positions by working under other coaches and there are few women who move up in the ranks to direct programs.span  /spanThere has never been a full-time female coach on the US Ski Team./p
p class=”MsoNormal”span            /spanNowhere is the gender divide more apparent and painful than in the travails of the women’s ski jumping team.span  /spanTheir well-chronicled hardships to gain Olympic status through the IOC, smacks of old-world misogyny.span  /spanAs recently as 2005, then-FIS president and member of the IOC, Gian Franco Kasper, said he didn’t think women should ski jump because the sport “seems not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view.”span  /span(Time Magazine, February 11, 2010) span /span/p
p class=”MsoNormal”          One has to wonder what the medical concerns might be.  Was Gian concerned there might be ovaries lining the outrun?!/p
p class=”MsoNormal”span            /spanspan /spanThe numbers tell the story: with less access to the top of the sport as coaches, with fewer women succeeding on the world stage, and, in the case of jumping, literally no possibility at Olympic competition, there are fewer chances to empower women to be successful./p
p class=”MsoNormal”The crux of the problem facing men’s women’s skiing is metaphorically best summed up by the skiing parent of two young children, twins,span  /spana boy and a girl, who describes them both at age four.span  /span“Once we went to visit family at a near-by farm.span  /spanWe lost track of time and foundspan  /span(the girl) playing quietly near the garden.span  /spanIn the meantime, (the boy) had found a hammer and knocked out all of the windows in a near-by garage, laughing and breaking the glass.”span  /spanIn the skiing world, the trick is to clear away the broken glass.span  /spanTo get women into the sport, the environment needs to be as it is for men, more coaches of your gender available to you, more opportunities to ski just with your gender, more marketing, more products, more events focused on your gender./p
p class=”MsoNormal”Enter Fast Female./p
p class=”MsoNormal”span            /spanThere have been three large Fast Female events on US Soil, the first two at the 2009 and 2010 US National Championships in Anchorage, the most recent at the distance national championships in Maine this spring.span   /spanOver one-hundred women joined and were mentored by elite female coaches and athletes.span  /spanThe girls went home at the end of the day happy, connected with many of the top athletes, and secured with a great introduction to Nordic skiing.span  /spanAs a youth introduction, it clears the way for women to try ski sport unencumbered by the status quo.span  /span/p
p class=”MsoNormal”span            /spanThere is a myopic focus on toughness, skiing emharder/emspan than the next racer and the long and serious road to skiing success in the US.span  /spanPhrases like “talent-identification” and “direct-coaching sessions” are this year’s new paths to our would be success.span   /spanBefore skiers can get to the toughest parts of racing they have to be people who ski.span  /spanFor women, Fast and Female is grooming a smoother trail for that to happen. /span/p

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Johnny Klister

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