Here’s a quick and non-exhaustive look at some recent news in the world of nordic sports.
World Cup Cancellation in Les Rousses, FRA and Planica, SLO
Earlier this week, the FIS announced the cancellation of the final World Cup stop before the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing, which were scheduled for the 21st to 23rd of January in Planica, Slovenia. This news arrives a week after the cancellation of the Les Rousses, France mini tour, which would have taken place this upcoming weekend. Both cancellations were made based on rising numbers of coronavirus infections with the omicron variant.
“Due the current acute development of the pandemic in Slovenia, the safety of stakeholders involved at those large scale events could not be guaranteed,” the FIS wrote in the media release.
Of the event stakeholders, athletes in particular would be at heightened risk of a COVID-19 infection that could jeopardize their ability to participate in the upcoming Olympic Games. Surrounding travel to Beijing/Zhangjiakou and admission into the Olympic venue “bubble”, strict coronavirus testing and management protocols will be enforced. Should an athlete test positive within a critical window before travel, they may be unable to attend the Games regardless of the severity of their illness.
FasterSkier will cover the topic of athlete safety and COVID-19 risk mitigation separately; stay tuned.
Canadian Olympic Trials Wrap Up in Canmore, AB
The Canadian Olympic trials were held over the last week at the Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park in Canmore, Alberta. The event schedule, which mirrored the U.S. Cross Country Championships in Soldier Hollow, included a freestyle sprint, an individual start 10/15-kilometer classic, 15/30k individual start skate, and finished with a classic sprint. These competitions directly influence the selection of Nordiq Canada’s Olympic team.
FasterSkier will provide full coverage of these events in the coming week, but here’s a quick recap of results.
Jan 6th Freestyle Sprint:
Laura LeClaire won the women’s freestyle sprint, narrowly beating Cendrine Browne who took second. A few meters behind, Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt crossed the finish line in third.
In another close finish on the men’s side, Antoine Cyr took the win ahead of Russell Kennedy, with Pierre Grall-Johnson in third.
Jan 8th 10/15k Classic:
In the classic distance event, Cyr doubled up on his victory, taking the 15k classic win in 41:12.0. Rémi Drolet skied the second fastest time on the course (+26.0), with Russell Kennedy rounding out the men’s podium in third (+36.8).
For the women, Katherine Stewart-Jones took the women’s 10k classic win in 34:29.6, with Dahria Beatty 0.5 seconds off her mark in second place. Browne was third on the day (+20.6) to finalize the women’s podium.
Jan 9th 15/30k Skate:
In the following day’s distance skate race, the women’s podium looked quite similar to the distance classic podium. Stewart-Jones again took the win in 39:47.4, this time with Browne in second (+18.7), and Beatty in third (+42.0).
On the men’s side, Kennedy advanced to the top spot of the podium, winning the 30k skate by a significant margin in 1:11:54.4. Phillipe Boucher was next to the line in second (+1:35.9), with Cyr in third (+3:34.2) following another sizable gap.
Jan 11th Classic Sprint:
On the final day of racing, Xavier McKeever earned his first podium of the week. After setting the fastest time in qualification, McKeever made his way through the heats to win the event in 2:55:50. Cyr took the second spot for men (+0.97), with Drolet racing onto his second classic podium of the week in third (+3.86).
For the women, Bouffard-Nesbitt again found herself on the sprint podium, smashing the women’s final in 3:22.46, and winning by a large margin over second place Stewart-Jones (+4.78). Third place was Laurence Dumais (+7.82), to close out the women’s podium.
Media releases and more information can be found at NordiqCanada.ca.
US Biathlon Olympic Team Naming
On January 9th, U.S. Biathlon announced final selections for the 2022 Olympic Team, which includes four men and four women.
In alphabetical order, the team includes: Jake Brown (St. Paul, Minn./Craftsbury Green Racing Project & USBA), Sean Doherty (Center Conway, N.H./National Guard Biathlon & USBA), Susan Dunklee (Craftsbury, Vt./Craftsbury Green Racing Project & USBA), Clare Egan (Cape Elizabeth, Maine/Craftsbury Green Racing Project & USBA), Deedra Irwin (Pulaski, Wis./National Guard Biathlon & USBA), Joanne Reid (Grand Junction, Colo.), and Paul Schommer (Appleton, Wis./Team Crosscut & USBA).
Cross-country team naming is scheduled for Tuesday January 18th, with an update on the final U.S. men’s quota on Thursday the 20th.
The FIS Confirms Illegal Fluoro Use at Scandinavian Cup Races in Falun, SWE
The Norwegian news outlet NRK reported Monday that Pierre Mignerey, FIS Cross Country Race Director, confirmed suspicions that C8 fluorocarbons had been used in competition during the weekend of Scandinavian Cup races in Falun, Sweden between January 7th-9th. These products have been banned from use and sale in the EU due to their environmental and human health risks; the chemical compounds contained in these perfluorinated waxes do not break down over time and are known carcinogens.
With the aforementioned cancellation of upcoming World Cup events, this weekend of racing in Falun saw a competitive field, including names like Swedish sprint-phenoms Maja Dahlqvist and Jonna Sundling, and Norwegian standouts Håvard Solås Taugbøl and Sindre Bjørnestad Skar.
“I read an email this morning from the Chief Justice. It was a report about what happened in Falun and which must be discussed at the highest level,” Mignerey told NRK. “The report states that there were rumors and that the rumors were confirmed. Some have admitted that they used C8 products. But why they did it and how, it is not stated in the report.”
Mignerey declined further comment as to who had been accused or confirmed of cheating, and the extent of the allegations that had been made.
At this time, there is no method of testing for these substances during competition. A trust-based agreement has been signed by each national federation stating that their team will not use illegal products, however, violations such as what took place in Falun feed suspicions as to whether teams are adhering to the agreement.
“Everyone has signed the letter and said that they will not use it in FIS competitions,” said Mignerey in the NRK report. “The problem is that there is nothing about the use of such fluorine products in the competition rules and thus the rules are not formally broken. The jury on the spot can not do anything about the case… But it is not fair behavior. This must be raised to the FIS council or FIS court, if we want to do something about it.”
A comment from both Taugbøl and Skar was included in the NRK article. Both stated that they had not heard rumors of this cheating or volunteered their own concerns.
“I have not heard anything,” said Taugbøl through translation. “But both me and Sindre probably agreed on Saturday that we did not have completely optimal skis. But nothing more than noticing that others had better skis. It is not possible to speculate whether it was illegal fluoride. There will be ski differences anyway.”
“I have not heard anything either,” seconeed Skar. “I went to two races this weekend where I experienced that I did not have fast enough skis both days. That’s the only thing I can say about it. But I have neither suspected nor heard anything.”
Rachel is an endurance sport enthusiast based in the Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado. You can find her cruising around on skinny skis, running in the mountains with her pup, or chasing her toddler (born Oct. 2018). Instagram: @bachrunner4646