GeneralNewsTeam 15: Estonia

Avatar Kieran JonesNovember 4, 2011

Estonia

2009-2010 Nations Cup Ranking: 14th (971 pts)

2010-2011 Nations Cup Ranking: 15th (636 pts)

Men: 11th (633 pts)

Women: 21st (3 pts)

2011/2012 World Cup Team

Men

Peter Kummel

Kein Einaste

Timo Simonlatser

Women

N/A

 

What You May Have Missed Last Season

The legendary, needs-no-introduction Andrus Veerpalu was poised to go out on top, as the greatest male Estonian skier ever, and one of the all-time best big-race performeres of Nordic skiing – until an injury forced him to sit out of his final World Championships, and call it a career. The Estonian strong-man was feted, celebrated, patted on the back, and given rounds of applause – until he tested positive for human growth hormone.

Instead, he went out on the bottom, as it emerged that he tested positive for growth hormone (or did he? The lawyers are still battling it out) and opted to retire before World Championships. This created  a not-insignificant amount of outrage both pro and con-Veerpalu, but Odd-Bjorn Hjelmset was clear on his opinion of the Olympic and World Championship medalist.

Peeter Kummel (left).

On course, the Estonian men were quite good, but not outstanding. While Veerpalu’s points are invalid, 13 other Estonian skiers scored World Cup points, however none of them cracked 100.

The best of the bunch were Timo Simonlatser and Peeter Kummel, both very talented sprinters. Kummel had a strong World Championships, where he qualified 17th in the sprint before battling his way through to the final to finish 6th in the Petter Northug – Marcus Hellner dominated event.

In most countries, as sixth-place result at World Championships would be cause for at least a little celebration – but the Estonians demand more.

What You Need To Know for This Season

The hurricane that is the Veerpalu doping controversy has become a massive sideshow, and the fall-out has just begun – it is extremely unclear how the Estonian distance team and skiers will shake out this season.

Mati Alaver, who coached Veerpalu as well as recently retired Jaak Mae, has been suspended as Head Coach of the National Team, and the head of the Estonian Ski Association Juri Jarv has resigned, while sprint coach Bjorn Kristianson has quit outright in protest over the Federations handling of the incident – he found out about Veerpalu’s case from the paper.

In the past, Alaver has said that he will resign if Veerpalu is not cleared of all charges, but seeing as FIS has stiffened the penalty against the Estonian legend, to a three-year barn, that seems unlikely.

Mati Alaver, currently suspended Estonian cross-country ski coach

While Estonia has never been known for having a deep womens’ team, the retirement of Kristina Smigun-Vaehi at the end of the 2009-2010 season highlighted just how little depth exists, as just two women scored World Cup points. And neither Piret Pormeister or Triin Ojaste are prepared to step up to the level that the Estonian public demands of their skiers, at least this season, as is evidenced by their lack of inclusion on the World Cup team.

If you’re looking to understand more of Estonia as a country, look to FasterSkier’s own Nat Herz who spent time in Estonia this past winter, and wrote an excellent piece on the countries’ development as a ski power.

And if there is one bright spot left in Estonia, it’s their sprint squad. A tightly-knit group of guys who have some top tier skills, and judging from their website, seem to have at least as much fun as the vaunted Norwegian Sprintgutta.

Estonian words and names are awesome – in just a short sample size, skiing in Estonian is ‘suusk’, while ski websites such as FasterSkier are ‘suusaportals’; finally, they have a ski club named ‘suusahullud’, which roughly translates to ‘ski crazy’ or ‘skier freaks’.

Who You Should Watch

Kein Einaste is a 26 year old sprinter poised on the edge of big things. He can really only classic sprint – he failed to qualify on skate skis this past winter, but went three-for-three in classic. He also seems to have some terrible luck. One Estonian newspaper headline even called out a higher power, in a story entitled “Why Does God Hate Einaste?” after the unlucky Estonian broke a pole in his semi-final during the sprint at the Otepaa World Cup.

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Kieran Jones

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