Last week, the International Ski Federation (FIS) held spring meetings to discuss the 2021-2022 cross-country race season. The Cross-Country Committee made several proposals that remain to be approved by the FIS Council.
A familiar-looking draft of the 2021-2022 World Cup calendar was proposed. Ruka, Finland will kick off racing with a three-race weekend at the end of November. This series, however, will not be organized as a mini-tour. Period I advances with three races in Lillehammer, Norway then moves to Davos, Switzerland and Dresden, Germany. The early season’s main event, the Tour de Ski (Period II), consists of six races. The most recent edition of the Tour, won by American Jessie Diggins, was eight stages.
Period III begins with three races in Les Rousses, France and concludes in Planica, Slovenia on January 23. Afyter Period III, the World Cup takes a hiatus for the Beijing Olympics which runs between February 4-20.
Period IV begins February 26 and visits Lahti, Finland, followed by Norwegian stops in Drammen and Oslo, and ends with three races in Falun, Sweden. The World Cup Finals are scheduled for three races in Tyumen, Russia. According to the FIS database, 2015 was the last year a cross-country World Cup was held in Russia. As a result of the Sochi doping scandal and related doping violations, Russia has not hosted recent cross-country World Cup races. However, under a recent Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruling, Russia can host World Cup level events. Russia remains banned from hosting World Championship events until December 2022.
The recently concluded season also witnessed several instances where obstruction and overtaking violations dictated race outcomes. The most high-profile case involved Alexander Bolshunov and Johannes Høsflot Klæbo during the closing meters of the men’s World Championship 50 k. According to FIS, six active athletes and several other stakeholders are discussing rule changes and language clarity regarding obstruction and overtaking. Any changes to the rules and language will be announced next fall.
More changes were proposed for the team sprints. This past season, the rules clarified several paths to the finals. If the semis were timed, the top two teams from each semi auto-advance. The remaining final’s spots were earned by the six fastest teams (ranked 3rd – 8th) overall between the two semis. In instances where the semis were untimed, the top-five teams from each respective semi advance to the finals.
The new proposed team sprint qualification rules promote the top four teams from each semi to the final. The next two fastest teams overall (considering both semis) will be considered “lucky losers” and advance to the finals.
Finally, FIS also claims to be discussing inequities when it comes to race ski preparation at the World Cup Level. For nearly a decade, as some countries have purchased mobile wax buses and expanded their ski-prep-staff, a debate between the haves and have-nots has festered. The most recent statement from FIS claims to be addressing the unsustainable nature of the ski-prep arms race.
“The working group will be challenged to completely re-think the status of ski preparation as the current system is interfering with the set focus to make the World Cup more sustainable, stated FIS. “A main point for the working group to focus on will also be the big impact the different possibilities of ski preparation between larger and smaller nations have on race results and their financial possibilities.”