BEITOSTØLEN, Norway – “It’s really too bad there weren’t more girls here,” Therese Johaug told Langrenn.com after the 10 k classic FIS race in Beitostolen on Sunday.
That race had 25 Norwegian females on the result lists, while Friday’s 10K skate race featured 23 Norwegian women, and 21 completed Saturday’s sprint.
“There are definitely fewer girls here than previous years,” said Egil Kristiansen, head coach for the Norwegian national team women.
“Disappointingly few girls here,” said Norwegian national team director Åge Skinstad.
But the most serious comments belonged to Steinar Mundal.
“That we don’t have more girls racing at Beito is one thing, and in and of itself not that big of a deal. But this is an elite race, and there should have been more racers here. However, the general trend is incredibly scary. I am seriously concerned,” Mundal told Langrenn.com.
Mundal pointed out that in the entire state of Buskerud, in the south of Norway, there is only one female skier left at the senior level who is pursuing the sport.
“That’s just really sad. If this is a general trend, Norway will soon have very few female skiers,” he said.
Who is responsible?
“Somebody has to step up here. Soon,” Mundal said. ”But I don’t know who.”
Not enough snow
Therese Johaug thinks the lack of snow in parts of Norway is part of reason why so few girls raced this weekend.
“A lot of the girls don’t feel like they’ve skied enough yet, and many of them have lofty ambitions for themselves here at Beito. But I still think there are too few girls racing. I hope we can increase the recruitment, and that the girls are well taken care of during the most critical phases – from the youth to the junior level and from the junior to the senior level,” Johaug said.
Considerably More Swedes in the Swedish FIS Opener
Parallel to the FIS opener at Beito last weekend, the Swedes held their FIS opener in Bruksvallarna. At those events, nearly 80 female skiers entered, and more than half of them were Swedish.
Sweden has also had spotty snow coverage this fall, just like Norway.
Erik Østli, the race director at Beito, is wondering what the reasons may be. “It’s disappointing how few girls are racing, and I also notice that there are huge gaps in the performance levels. I wonder if all the restrictions on entries in the past have scared people from registering,” he said.
Erik Røste, vice president of the Norwegian Ski Association, doesn’t find the trend alarming. In fact, he finds it encouraging that fewer girls are racing the Beito opener.
“As far as I know, this is a positive trend. Just look at the nationals. There are more racers than ever before,” Røste pointed out.
What does he think about the sparse number of girls at the season opener?
“It’s almost nice. We’ve tried to downplay the perceived importance of the Beito races for years. I’m actually encouraged to see less emphasis on this. There will be more important races later,” he said.
From Langrenn.com, November 15, 2010. By Ola Jordheim Halvorsen, translation by 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.