FIS Athlete Rep Randall Supports Tour Organizers, Encourages Feedback on Changes

Alex KochonDecember 29, 20133
Kikkan Randall leads the pack in the women's first leg of the 4 x 5 k relay (Photo: Fischer / Nordic Focus)
Kikkan Randall leads the pack in the first leg of the 4 x 5 k relay at the World Cup in Lillehammer, Norway, earlier this month.  (Photo: Fischer/Nordic Focus)

Saturday’s news that Justyna Kowalczyk would skip the Tour de Ski and forgo her run for her fifth-straight title in the event came as a bit of a shock to the ski world.

What now? Why ever would she do that? Upon closer inspection, it became clear that the decision wasn’t unfounded – she and her coach were upset that five of seven of the stages were skate races – and they weren’t alone in the sentiment.

Ironically, the International Ski Federation (FIS) Athlete Representative Kikkan Randall didn’t field a single complaint about it. Granted, she was training in Davos, Switzerland, while more than 200 others were racing the eighth-annual Tour, which started Saturday in Oberhof, Germany.

“I even sent a message soliciting feedback,” Randall wrote in an email on Sunday.

Martin Johnsrud Sundby (NOR) was the early leader.  Photo: Fischer / Nordic Focus.
Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby strides to an early lead in the season-opening World Cup in Kuusamo, Finland, on Nov. 30.  (Photo: Fischer/Nordic Focus)

The day before, high-profile skiers like Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby vented to media outlets like NRK about the lack of classic races and late changes to the Tour schedule, notably switching Sunday’s 9-kilometer classic pursuit to a freestyle sprint on a 1.5-kilometer track in Oberhof.

On Tuesday, the third stage of the Tour is another freestyle sprint in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, making the first three stages skate races and all less than 3 or 4.5 kilometers in length.

“This is a parody,” Sundby told NRK on Saturday. “This is not what we skiers trained for and are passionate about. Now we are here only to provide sponsors and TV viewers what they want and go a few rounds around the stadium. This is nonsense.”

Kowalczyk understood the decisions stemmed from weather woes, with little manmade snow to work with in Oberhof, but she said the athletes should have been part of the decision.

“FIS management practitioners do not treat us with respect,” she told Poland’s Gazeta.

Randall was concerned that athletes weren’t using the best channels to get their point across.

“It’s too bad because I have seen athlete feedback taken and reacted to positively by FIS when given the right way,” she wrote. “Athletes must engage in the process, not just complain about it!”

Kowalczyk indirectly reached out to Randall about the decision, saying she felt bad for the American since so many skate races would’ve actually catered to her strengths. But Randall decided a while ago to skip the Tour.

Randall wrote that the change in competition program was all-around “unfortunate,” but she was glad they didn’t have to cancel any races.

“It’s tough to hear so many athletes complaining about the changes as if FIS is out to get them.” — Kikkan Randall, FIS athlete representative and U.S. Ski Team member

“Of course it’s a little harder for me to be sitting out now with so many skate races, which are my favorite, but I still feel strongly that it was the right decision for me to be on track for my biggest goals of the season at the Olympics,” she wrote.

“It’s tough to hear so many athletes complaining about the changes as if FIS is out to get them. It was a tough situation with the weather and I think all the stakeholders involved (organizers, tv, fis) made the best decision they could to make sure the tour carried on,” Randall continued. “We are in a sport with so many different disciplines. Sometimes it will be balanced and sometimes it won’t.  But we still race A to B don’t we?!”

Bottom line: every athlete has to strategically pick which races they will and won’t do, and factor that into their goals, she explained.

“Personally I hate skipping races,” she wrote. “But skipping the Tour is what I felt I needed to do for my biggest goals. For others, the Tour is their best preparation. … I’m sure the skate/classic balance will equalize in the universe eventually :)”

Alex Kochon

Alex Kochon ( is a former FasterSkier editor and roving reporter who never really lost touch with the nordic scene. A freelance writer, editor, and outdoor-loving mom of two, she lives in northeastern New York and enjoys adventuring in the Adirondacks. She shares her passion for sports and recreation as the co-founder of "Ride On! Mountain Bike Trail Guide" and a sales and content contributor at When she's not skiing or chasing her kids around, Alex assists authors as a production and marketing coordinator for iPub Global Connection.

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  • apresski

    December 30, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    As a huge fan of Nordic ski racing and a non-racing skier, I can appreciate the comments and concerns by the athletes who spoke out against the tour changes. Though I am surprised they did not contact Ms. Randall the athlete rep to make known their displeasure. The shortened races and technique changes, takes away the difficulty of the series and kinda just makes it seem like one big roller derby race.

    As far as Ms. Randall’s comments go, I found them to be slightly condescending in tone towards the athletes who spoke out against the tour changes and the use of emoticons in a press release of some seriousness in the ski world, slightly unprofessional.

  • AudreyWeber

    January 1, 2014 at 6:40 pm

    First of all: KIKKAN FOR PRESIDENT! I love this woman’s straight-forward, no non-sense attitude; not to mention her diplomacy and professionalism whenever faced with emotionally-charged issues. As far as her tone towards the athletes who spoke out and the use of emoticons, I think her point was mainly for everyone to just take a deep breath, chill out, and put their big kid pants on. And also that in the long-run, grand scheme of things in the ski world, all this will really amount to nothing for all involved. How can you argue with that?

    “I’m sure the skate/classic balance will equalize in the universe eventually 🙂 ” And she’s witty.


  • apresski

    January 2, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    Ms. Weber I appreciate your comments regarding Ms. Randall’s actions as an athlete representative. Yes! she has done a fantastic job in that capacity! Last years work on the course changes (can’t remember the venue) was top notch. Sometimes the written word and it’s context can be misleading. I do think that the changes to the Tour has probably made some athletes upset in that they had it marked on their calendars and train and plan accordingly and so the changes will amount to something for them at least.
    Ja Kikkan fantastisch, fantastische Ski-Klassiker!

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