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Ready for the World Championships

Heidi Weng 3rd sprint Otepää Feb 18-17 - Nordic Focus 680x
Heidi Weng 3rd sprint Otepää Feb 18-17 - Nordic Focus 680x

Heidi Weng (NOR) was 3rd in the sprint at the FIS World Cup in Otepaeae (EST). Photo: Nordic Focus

Heading into the 2017 FIS Nordic World Championships, Madshus racers are dominating the overall World Cup on the women’s side.

Heidi Weng (NOR) sits in first place with 1651 points, Ingvild Flugstad Østberg (NOR) in second place with 1285 points and Krista Pärmäkoski (FIN) in third place with 1262 points. The same order goes for the overall distance World Cup.

Weng is also third in the overall sprint world cup going into the World Championships this week.

Final prep for Lahti
At the FIS cross-country World Cup last weekend, Heidi Weng (NOR) was third in the sprint on Saturday and again in the 10km classic race on Sunday at the World Cup in Otepää (EST).

Also on Sunday, Hans Christer Holund (NOR) skied an impressive 15km classic race, and was rewarded with a podium finish. Holund was third in the race but possibly the happiest skier on the podium.

“This third place means a lot to me. I’ve had a difficult season with the (shoulder) injury in the fall. At the finish, I could not believe I was third. This is probably the hardest 15 km I have ever skied. The course was tough, and the snow conditions made it even harder, so I started out conservatively and stepped it up as the race progressed,” Holund said.

Holund is an extra for the Norwegian national team World Championships squad.

The Otepää weekend was the last World Cup prior to the 2017 FIS Nordic World Championships in Lahti (FIN), which open on Wednesday, February 22. The first races are on Thursday, February 23.

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Hans Christer Holund (NOR) was 3rd in the 15km classic at the FIS World Cup in Otepaeae (EST). Photo: Nordic Focus

Hans Christer Holund (NOR) was 3rd in the 15km classic at the FIS World Cup in Otepaeae (EST). Photo: Nordic Focus

2017 FIS Nordic World Championships schedule
Cross-Country:
February 23: Sprint men and women
February 25: 15km skiathlon (women), 30km skiathlon (men)
February 26: team sprint men and women
February 28: 10km classic women
March 1: 15km classic men
March 2: relay women (4x5km)
March 3: relay men (4×7.5km)
March 4: 30km skate women
March 5: 50km skate men

Nordic combined
February 24: NH100/10km
February 26: Team competition NH100/4x5km
March 1: LH130/10km
March 3: Team sprint LH130/2×7.5km

World Cup Kicks Off in Ruka

Noah Hoffman (USA) was 6th in the season opener this weekend. Here from the 15k skate at FIS World Championships in Falun (SWE). Photo: 
NordicFocus
Noah Hoffman (USA) was 6th in the season opener this weekend. Here from the 15k skate at FIS World Championships in Falun (SWE). Photo: NordicFocus

Noah Hoffman (USA) was 6th in the season opener last weekend. Here from the 15k skate at FIS World Championships in Falun (SWE). Photo: NordicFocus

The November 26-29 season opener weekend features six FIS World Cup events for cross-country and two for Nordic Combined.

With fresh snow in Kuusamo/Ruka (FIN), the stage is set for a rock-n-roll start to the traditional FIS Nordic Opening. In addition to the cross-country and Nordic combined events, there will be two FIS ski jumping competitions in Ruka as well.

Cross-Country Skiing
While the cross-country “Ruka Triple” mini tour took a break from the World Cup schedule last season, the popular stage race is back and treats racers to a sprint on Friday, a skate distance on Saturday and a classic pursuit on Sunday.

For Madshus racer Noah Hoffman (USA), the Finnish venue holds both good and bad memories.

“I have a lot of experience with this venue, both bad and good. Two years ago, I won the final stage of the opening mini-tour World Cup here. Last year, I broke my ankle in the 15km classic here. So, I’m hoping to channel the good and not so much the bad here this year,” Hoffman said to Madshus.com prior to the World Cup opener. Read more about Hoffman’s 2014 adventure in Finland.

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Noah Hoffman broke his ankel during the 15km skate race in Kuusamo last year. Photo: NoahHoffman.com

Noah Hoffman broke his ankel during the 15km skate race in Kuusamo last year. Photo: NoahHoffman.com

Hoffman is excited for the season to get underway, and for a season with no major championships, he is particularly excited about the World Cup tours, of which there are several this year.

“I really like the mini-tours and the full tours. They suit my strengths well, and I like having lots of races in a row,” said Hoffman, who is coming off a solid 6th place in the 15km skate race at the Swedish FIS season opener last weekend.

Between the Ruka season opener this weekend and the season finale in March, there are 36 competitions per gender across nine countries on the 2016 World Cup schedule. In a season with no major championships, the Tour de Ski, which celebrates its 10th anniversary will be one of the major goals for many of the racers. Additionally, the new Tour de Canada, which is scheduled from March 1-10, 2016, is already drawing significant attention both from the racers and the fans. The new tour also serves as the 2016 season finale.

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Heidi Weng fighting the last few meters to the finish line up Alpe Cermis, the last stage of the 2015 Tour de Ski. Photo: Nordic Focus

Heidi Weng fighting the last few meters to the finish line up Alpe Cermis, the last stage of the 2015 Tour de Ski. Photo: Nordic Focus

Madshus racers claimed five podium finishes at the FIS Season opener in Beitostølen (NOR) November 13-15, and then two podiums and several top-10 finishes at the Swedish and Finnish season openers this weekend, which bodes well for the first World Cup events. Madshus racer Hans Christer Holund (NOR) posted two podiums at Beitostølen, while Ingvild Flugstad Østberg (NOR), Heidi Weng (NOR) and Pål Golberg each had one podium at the 2016 season opener. Read more about the Nov 13-15 season opener.

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Hans Christer Holund (NOR)

Hans Christer Holund (NOR)

Nordic Combined
According to the FIS, this season there is a bigger field of athletes than in a long time. Madshus promising young racer Jarl Riiber (NOR) is certainly one to keep an eye on this season. He just moved up from the juniors with a gold and a bronze medal from the 2015 FIS Junior World Championships in Almaty (KAZ), and was 13th at the World Cup in Trondheim in March.

The 2016 FIS Nordic Combined World Cup treats the athletes to twelve different venues across Europe. The third edition of the Nordic Combined Triple in Seefeld (AUT) is among the season highlights for the Nordic Combined racers. Also, the Nordic Combined competitions in Schonach (GER) will also be a special occasion, as the village is hosting the events for the 50th time.

2016 Season Kick-Off

Pål Golberg (NOR) at the 2014 FIS skate race at Beitostølen. Photo: Inge Scheve
Pål Golberg (NOR) at the 2014 FIS skate race at Beitostølen. Photo: Inge Scheve

Pål Golberg (NOR) at the 2014 FIS skate race at Beitostølen. Photo: Inge Scheve

The 2016 FIS season opener at Beitostølen (NOR) includes both cross-country and Nordic combined competitions, scheduled from Friday morning through Sunday.

Strong and deep field
The cross-country events are open to the top 140 male skiers (domestic and international athletes combined) based on the current FIS ranking list. For the men, the FIS point cutoff is expected to be around 125 points. For the women, the race field is limited to entered racers with 250 FIS points or less.

Aside from Norwegian skiers, World Cup racers from France, Germany, Sweden, Japan, Canada, Denmark, Spain, Russia and Great Britain are on the start list in both the men’s and the women’s events.

Preliminary start lists (published Tuesday) HERE

The season opener weekend starts with a 7.5-kilometer individual start classic race for women and a 15-kilometer individual start classic race for men. Saturday features a 7.5-kilometer individual start skate race for women and a 15-kilometer individual start skate race for men. The season kick-off at Beitostølen concludes on Sunday with classic sprint events for both men and women.

Heidi Weng (NOR) is on the start list for the 2016 FIS Season opener at Beitostølen (NOR) this weekend. Photo: Nordic Focus

Heidi Weng (NOR) is on the start list for the 2016 FIS Season opener at Beitostølen (NOR) this weekend. Photo: Nordic Focus

Modified racecourse
Although the snow situation has been tough leading up to the races, the events will be held according to schedule.

However, the racecourse has been cut from 5km to 3.75km, and the course will be closed to the public and all other users prior to and during the FIS competitions. Registered racers will be allowed onto the course on Thursday morning, before the competitions.

Exceptionally warm and wet conditions early this month were rough on the snow that was stored from last winter and placed on the course prior to the October 30 opening of the stadium courses. However, with the warm conditions, the snow quickly started melting, and the organizers were forced to close the venue to protect the snow for the season opener races this coming weekend.

“The organizers have put down tarps and salted the course, this week the organizers will be trucking in fresh snow from Filefjell, and once the temperature drops sufficiently they will start snow production with traditional snow making equipment,” says Terje Lund at the Norwegian Ski Association, adding that the forecast calls for colder weather this week.

Additionally, the race organizers have trucked in fresh snow from the mountains at Filefjell all week, so there will be adequate snow cover for the races, reports confirm.

With this weekend’s races, the FIS season is formally under way. The 2016 season continues with national season openers like popcorn the next few weeks leading up to FIS World Cup season opener, which takes place in Kuusamo (FIN) the last weekend in November.

 

Secret to Success: Soccer

Invild Flugstad Oestberg (NOR) is both Olympic and World Champion in cross-country skiing, but also helped her soccer team advance to the first division. Photo: Nordic Focus
Invild Flugstad Oestberg (NOR) is both Olympic and World Champion in cross-country skiing, but also helped her soccer team advance to the first division. Photo: Nordic Focus

Invild Flugstad Oestberg (NOR) is both Olympic and World Champion in cross-country skiing, but also helped her soccer team advance to the first division. Photo: Nordic Focus

Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg (NOR) says that if she doesn’t ski fast enough in the winter, it’s because she hasn’t played enough soccer in the spring and summer.

The multitalented 24-year-old cross-country skier helped her hometown soccer team advance to the first division this season. But while Oestberg loves the game and will gladly continue with the team next season if given the opportunity, she is doubtful that her team needs her service.

“I think they need something more than a cross-country skier when they will compete in the first division, but if they ask me again, I certainly cant say no,” Oestberg said to Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten during a training camp in Italy this week.

Can’t kick the habit
While Oestberg is both Olympic and World Champion in cross-country skiing, soccer has always been an important part of her life. For years, Oestberg continued to focus equally much on both skiing and soccer. But when she was 18 or 19 years old, she thought she was done with the ball and would focus entirely on cross-country skiing. But she just couldn’t kick the habit.

“I thought I had played my last game at 18 or 19. Then, when spring rolled around again, I just couldn’t give it up. But I have to admit I put less emphasis on it each year,” Oestberg said, explaining that combining the two sports is no easy task.

She finds it easier to include soccer early in the dryland season, through the spring and early summer, prior to the high-volume months of the cross-country preseason.

“I’ve told several people that if I don’t ski fast this winter, it’s because I didn’t get to play enough soccer in the spring and summer,” said Oestberg, adding that she’s curious about the upcoming season.

“I’ve trained really well this summer and fall, and put in a lot of volume, so I hope I’ll be able to perform well in both sprint and distance events this season. I’ve improved a lot and taken some giant steps the last two seasons, so I’m curious to see if I can follow the same trajectory this year. But I believe I’m well prepared,” she said.

Not alone
Oestberg’s success on multiple arenas is hardly unique among the best World Cup skiers. Several of her fellow Madshus racers are accomplished competitors in summer sports: Heidi Weng (NOR) also loves competing in the summer, and is the national champion of uphill trail running.

Kristin Stoermer Steira (NOR), who retired from World Cup racing after the 2015 season, also competed in track and field events, and has been among the top 10.000-meter runners in Norway for several years. This fall, Steira became the Norwegian champion of cross-country running, and is tempted to try out for the 2016 European Championships in Track and Field, she says to the Norwegian broadcaster TV2.

Berger Named Head Coach for Disabled National Team

Lars Berger at the IBU World Cup in Hochfilzen (AUT) December 2013. Photo: Madshus
Lars Berger at the IBU World Cup in Hochfilzen (AUT) December 2013. Photo: Madshus

Lars Berger at the IBU World Cup in Hochfilzen (AUT) December 2013. Photo: Madshus

Madshus skier Lars Berger (NOR), 35, was announced head coach for cross-country and biathlon to the Norwegian national disabled ski team.

Berger, who lives just north of Lillehammer, officially steps into the position on May 1, which is traditionally the kick-off date for the new racing season. But Berger is already settled into the National Ski Association/National Biathlon Association offices in Oslo and ready to launch.

“When I decided to retire from full-time skiing after this season, this position presented itself as a perfect opportunity to stay involved. The top disabled skiers put down every bit as much training effort as those on the regular World Cup circuit, and I’m really excited to get started,” Berger said in a press release Monday.

As a joint effort with the Norwegian Olympic Development Center (Olympiatoppen) and the National Biathlon Team, the Norwegian Ski Association has established a combined national team for the biathletes and cross-country skiers, which will embark on its first season this year.

Aage Skinstad, the National Team Director with the Norwegian Ski Association, is excited to have Berger as the head coach.

“We feel extremely fortunate to have a head coach in place who is a World Champion in both biathlon and cross-country skiing. With experience at the top level from both biathlon and cross-country skiing, we believe Lars is the right man to lead this team to both the 2017 World Championships and the 2018 Paralympics, and develop the best IPC national team in the world,” Skinstad said.

“This new combined effort with Olympiatoppen and the National Biathlon Association is really exciting, and we are really looking forward to contribute with our resources,” he added.

Lars Berger is one of only a handful skiers who have won World Championship gold medals at both the FIS Nordic World Championships as well as the IBU World Championships.

Berger helped Norway to a gold medal in the biathlon relay at the 2009 IBU World Championships in South Korea, and in 2007, he won the individual gold medal in 15km skate event at the FIS World Championships in Sapporo, and also helped Norway to gold in the men’s 4x10km relay at the same World Championships.

He was also a part of the Norwegian cross-country team that won gold in the 2005 FIS World Championships in Oberstdorf, Germany.

Additionally, Berger has a silver medal from the biathlon relay at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, and four silver medals from IBU World Championships (2004, 2007 and 2009), and seven Norwegian National Championship titles.

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