How Norway Picks Their World Championship Team

Inge ScheveOctober 27, 20109

OSLO, NORWAY – The Norwegian team will be named no later than 18 days prior to the first competition in Oslo, likely right after the Norwegian national championships in Steinkjer. “In those instances where there is any doubt, the results from Nationals will be the deciding factor,” said Aage Skinstad, Norwegian team director.

The Norwegian team will consist of a maximum of 18 skiers, including both men and women. The final selection will be based on the following criteria:
• Medal candidate in individual events
• Medal candidate in the relay
• Candidate for points (top six)
• If there are still spots open, younger athletes who have shown potential but need the experience for future championships/major events will be selected.

Norway probably has the biggest recruitment base in the world and the most depth at the elite level, possibly with the exception of Russia. Just earning a spot for the opening World Cup races in Gällivare, Sweden, and Kuusamo, Finland, isn’t going to be easy.

“We will not do an ‘American selection’ for the qualifying races at Beitostoelen. The skiers who are already named to the national team will have priority for the Beito races,” Skinstad explained. (Ed. In Scandinavia “American selection” refers to a selection process based on points and rankings rather than coaches’ discretion, development trends and potential.)

In Kuusamo (Finland), the socalled Ruka Triple, Norway can start nine racers in both the men’s and women’s events, in addition to the racers who are prequalified. On top of that, Ingvild Flugstad Østberg and Kristian Tettli Rennemo are prequalified until Christmas as the overall winners of the Scandinavian Cup last season.

For the Tour de Ski, Norway can start nine racers in both the men’s and the women’s events, but will probably not fill their spots. Norway will probably only field those racers who are likely to win stages or fight for the overall titles – probably 12 racers total. Marit Bjørgen has already said that she will not race the Tour this season.

From October 26, 2010. By Kjell Erik Kristiansen, translation by Inge Scheve, FasterSkier.

Inge Scheve

Inge is FasterSkier's international reporter, born and bred in Norway. A cross-country ski racer and mountain runner, she also dabbles on two wheels in the offseason. If it's steep and long, she loves it. Follow her on Twitter: @IngeScheve.

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  • JoranElias

    October 27, 2010 at 10:16 am

    I’m curious, is the “american selection” phrase particular to xc skiing, or is that a general Norwegian bit of slang? Does it have a negative connotation at all?

    Anyone know the history of the usage of that phrase in Scandinavia?

  • Inge Scheve

    October 27, 2010 at 10:36 am

    Not sure if the “American selection” term is used exclusively in nordic skiing in Scandinavia (I know it’s used in biathlon, nordic combined, xc, but I also think I’ve heard it used in other sports such as track & field, distance running, cycling and orienteering). It is sort of slang, and it does sometimes have a slightly negative connotation in that the method of using only points and current ranking doesn’t factor in other things that could make an athlete with fewer points/lesser ranking a better pick for a certain event. However, it is also referred to as the ultimate objective selection method. But rarely should a team be picked only based on objective criteria. Does that help?

  • Skidfan

    October 27, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    I think American selection in this case is more of:
    – every place up for grabs by the best skiers in these and these competition.

    So the norskies , by NOT doing it this way, will instead give the skiers on the NATIONAL TEAM privilieges, so Northug can ski into place 120 and still get on, while a good skier who stands outside the national team will not make it even if he beats, say, all of the national team but one or two.

    So they will give the majority of place to the national team and let the remaining be fought over.

  • JoranElias

    October 27, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    Thanks, Inge, that does help a bit, and very interesting that the phrase isn’t just used in skiing. I wonder where/how it started?

    Team selection criteria methods have been debated to death; I’m mostly interested in how that particular turn of phrase got started.

  • Mike Trecker

    October 27, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    The best of my knowledge suggests that the term “American Selection” came about shortly after the U.S. did away with coaches discretion exclusively. I believe the government, congress?, mandated that coaches discretion could not be the leading method of selection due to perceived bias by the coaches and lawsuits on behalf of athletes who felt slighted. Since then all individual sports need some type of “tryout” process, either a winner take all like the old Gold Cup or a points system, or some other tangible factor such as previous World Cup win or something along those lines. Often debated, the two methods stand in stark contrast, but coaches hunch often wins out in the long run. To Skidfan’s point, yes Northug could “slide” into a spot, if the coaches knew that he’d perform, and, he likely would win gold, which is the point I think. I personally would prefer a 100% coaches discretion for selection in this country. The coach would then be the accountable party should there be massive failure.

  • Skidfan

    October 27, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    American selections’ roots in the language i think can be found in USA track and fields selection policy – correct me if I’am wrong – it is at least 10 years old. I think you guys know more about that policy than I do.

    Trecker: I’m not sure that I ever said that it was bad choice.

    The “point” of NOT doing american selection is to let Northug have his fitness peak for the worlds and not for the outtake. Many of those who stand outside the national team plan for a fitness peak to the outtakes and may therefore perform worse in world cup or whatever.

    Look at NM 2010 where Gjerdalen won the pursuit. Perhaps he “used up” one of the seasons peaks. Did Eldar R. ever start in the Olympics? Was the selection perfect?

    Added to that it can be noted that there is a degree of friction between professional ski teams and the national team – the battle is about sponsorship money, prestige and personal egos.

    With that conflict in mind, Mr Trecker, that they have SOME kind of objective policy is good.
    And what do you in case of a moderate failure? They can always say “Ah, the others would be twice as bad”…

    In short: all I mentioned was that the article says “we gonna select on this and this obective meter” and a couple of lines down “BUT NOT if you are privilieged”. Just for the sake of clarifying. But if people WANT to see criticisms fine by me.

    Personally I think the norwegian (and swedish, but who cares about them right?) selection policy are the most reasonable.

  • Mike Trecker

    October 28, 2010 at 7:12 am

    OK, I get it, you have more of a problem with the selection of who gets to start in Beitostoelen, than you do the selection of the World’s team. Interesting take. National teamers can block out most of the starting spots whether they are even trying or not, thus minimizing long term competition from outsiders, and also solidifying the coaches selection of the National team from last spring. Hhmmmm. I don’t know what to say about that. I guess there could likely be some manipulation with just about any type of system.

    I still prefer 100% coaches discretion. Even though they can play favorites, its all out in the open and then the coach is responsible. Moderate failure? Up to the board that hires and fires to determine level of failure I guess. Mostly I just think its funny and interesting that they are using the term American Selection. That one of our country’s defining sporting characteristics is our often convoluted points systems.

  • trondfl

    October 28, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    The term “American selection” refers to the way US T&F pick their athletes for the Olympics. I am not sure if this is the way the US skiing used to do it or not. I think maybe the trials for the 94 Olympics in anchorage was done this way.
    In Norway we say “Amerikansk uttak” and it makes everyone nervous because it’s all or nothing. It’s used more as joke or for fun. I think the problem by using this method is that everyone peaks for the trials and then you don;t have anyone skiing fast at the championships. That’s is one of the reasons why the Norwegians give some skiers a green card to train and prepare for the championships and not worry about the qualification – You have to save the ammunition for the big race – it’s a tricky way of doing it but if you want to win you have to something.

  • Lars

    October 28, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    The way i understannd american selection is a selection were the x number of best athletes of the last race befor a big champonship get to got to said championship. Without looking at past preformances or why spme races migth not have preformed there best.

    Looking at the critera i think they are as they shud be, but on mens distance (men) i think it will be a struggel to find 4 racers. Atm Northug is the only Norwegian distance racer i think can be consistently top six.

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