2009-2010 Nations Cup Ranking: 9th (2013 pts)
2010-2011 Nations Cup Ranking: 7th (2821 pts)
Men: 4th (2680 pts)
Women: 17th (141 pts)
2011/2012 World Cup Team Men
Laurien Van der Graaff
What You May Have Missed Last Season
While Cologna was deadly during the Tour de Ski, and won the World Cup Overall by 300 points for the second time in his career, the real story were his World Championships results – or lack thereof. Pre-Oslo 2011, he was still ‘Super’ Dario, consistently placing in the top 10 fifteen times in just about every format you could throw at him, culminating in his second career Tour de Ski victory. Sure, it looks like he finished the Tour odd on a low note because he finished 18th in the climb up Alpe Cermis, but the man with the massive black visor was so far ahead he put it in cruise control.
At that point Cologna was the odds-on favorite to disrupt the ‘Hellner vs. Northug’ showdown that 2011 Oslo World Championships was billed as. But after a ninth place finish in the sprint, the Swiss supertstar dropped to 24th in the 30 k pursuit, a weak 25th in the 15 k classic, and finally 20th in the 50 k freestyle – far from where he was expected to finish, which could well have earned him a new nickname – ‘Disappearing’ Dario. To top it all off, he failed to be the world-beater the Swiss needed in their 4×10 relay in Oslo, finishing 6th during his leg on what was a highly touted relay squad.
That relay team, and its three additional members (Curdin Perl, Remo Fischer, Toni Livers), were the pleasant surprise of the season for the Swiss. The supporting cast of characters around Cologna has improved massively over the last few years – in our preview last seasonwe were excited about the group Cologna had supporting him, and in 2010-2011 they showed why.
In the very first relay of the season they were outstanding, finishing fourth. Three weeks later in La Clusaz, France, the foursome cruised to a 30 second victory over an incredibly talented Russian team.
Of the three non-Cologna Swiss primarily distance-skiing men, Perl was by far the best, finishing a career-high 14th spot in the World Cup Overall, and earning a his first (non-FIS recognized) World Cup medal by finishing third in the Final Climb during the Tour de Ski.
The first relay was also incredibly confusing to those watching (scroll down to the comments) – a certain unnamed broadcasting crew mixed the Swiss and US racing suits up, so for quite a while it was unclear as to whether the it was the Swiss or the US was in fact in a medal winning position. All the more reason to go the Canadian route…
The Swiss women have failed to find a star as the men have – between Silvana Bucher, Doris Trachsel, and Laurien Van der Graaff, they have some sprint talent, and the chance to squeeze into the top 30 on certain distance days, but nothing outstanding. That’s not to say they didn’t have success – Van der Graaff won the Red Bull NordicX event held in Davos last spring.
What You Need To Know for This Season
Despite Cologna’s setback during the latter half of last season, he’s still the greatest all-around skier on the World Cup today. Skate, classic, sprint, or distance, Cologna is the man to beat. World Championships aside, he rarely seems to have an off day, as is evidenced by his three podium finishes in his three Tour de Ski attempts. At 25, Cologna has plenty of career left, and is aiming for another top finish in the Tour.
Judging by their websites, blogs, videos, and photos, it seems like the Swiss men have the most fun of any World Cup team on the circuit. Except for Remo Fischer, who just seems to bike around in Slovenian racing-suit inspired clothing. Curdin Perl especially active – he sells personally branded sweet drink belts , climbed the Matterhorn this summer, and isn’t going to be quitting skiing for a snowboarding career. Also, last year we reported that Cologna had over 6,000 fans on Facebook – in a year he’s doubled that to almost 13,000.
With Cologna and the other male success on the Tour de Ski, the Swiss have been chasing their own stage to cheer on their athletes. While the World Cup stop in Cologna’s home-town of Davos has been a consistent lock on the World Cup, the Swiss are hungry for more World Cup action, and it looks like they’re going to get it!
Who You Should Watch
It has to be 24 year old Martin Jaeger, who came out of nowhere to qualify third during the sprint at World Championships. The freestyle-sprint specialist started just four World Cup races last year, and after qualifying third in Rybinsk, ended his day fourth after Russian Alexei Petukhov put on a clinic in the final. While that may seem like a flash in the pan to some, when you have the legendary Tor Arne Hetland as your coach, there is some serious potential for growth.