Preparing for Beijing 2022: The Science

Gerry FursethMay 19, 2021
Kerttu Niskanen did her final PyeongChang 2018 preparation at altitude at Seiser Alm, along with Charlotte Kalla, Marit Bjørgen and Ingvild Flugstad Østberg, but without the majority of their teammates.

The Journal of Science in Sport and Exercise recently published a paper titled ‘Preparing for the Nordic Skiing Events at the Beijing Olympics in 2022: Evidence-Based Recommendations and Unanswered Questions’, written by Øyvind Sandbakk, Guro Strøm Solli, Rune Kjøsen Talsnes, and Hans-Christer Holmberg.

This is essential reading for anyone who is hoping to represent their country next year, covering the basics of elevation, time zone changes, cold weather, and the possibility of race format changes during a pandemic.

The paper is also interesting for less elite skiers. Most North American favourites for Olympic starts are very familiar with managing jet lag and travel (the trip from the final World Cup race to Beijing is not too different from leaving Canmore for Europe), but there are few masters and juniors whose publicly shared race travel matches the suggested protocols.

The paper strongly recommends training at least 60 days per year at or above 1700m and racing at elevation. Many racers will not have achieved these targets during the pandemic, notably those living in low-lying countries or regions.

The Beijing venue has a very high probability of temperatures near the lower limit permitted for FIS races (-20C). Combining cold with higher elevation and low humidity results in suggested pacing adjustments to ensure good lung function at the end of races.

For the final preparation, there are three model strategies explained. As race fans discover at most major championship events, the ‘perfect’ prep for some team members may leave their teammates struggling to perform. More experienced elite athletes know which suits them best, but only the most highly funded can step outside the team program to build their own solution.

One of the things that makes this paper so readable and understandable is that it is focussed on just one event. That said, for those of us who are less than elite, it is a very helpful guide for higher-elevation race trips.

Gerry Furseth

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