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Ole Einar Bjoerndalen at the Blink Summer Ski Festival 2012. Photo: Blink
Ole Einar Bjoerndalen at the Blink Summer Ski Festival 2012. Photo: Blink

Ole Einar Bjoerndalen at the Blink Summer Ski Festival 2012. Photo: Blink

The Blink Summer Ski Festival features the strongest biathlon field ever in the history of the event, as well as a solid international field for the XC events.

Madshus biathletes Ole Einar Bjoerndalen and Emil Hegle Svendsen will face the toughest racers in the world at the annual Blink Summer Ski Festival in Sandnes, Norway, July 30-August 1, which is featuring the strongest field ever.

2015 marks the 10th anniversary for the Blink Summer Ski Festival, and last year, the uphill time trial that kicks off the event drew more than 700 racers. This year, World Cup racers from France, Japan, Great Britain, Poland, Finland, Sweden, Italy, Russia, Canada and Germany are registered for the races, in addition to Norway.

French Martin Fourcade (FRA) is bringing the entire French national team to the races, Arndt Pfeiffer and Daniel Böhm of Germany as well as North American racers Lowell Bailey, Tim Burke and Nathan Smith are also on the start list. The biathlon program includes shooting duels and mass starts for men and women on July 31, and super sprint races on August 1.

For the Norwegian biathletes, the Blink Ski Festival is a part of the national team season preparations, gearing up for the 2016 IBU World Championships on home turf in Oslo March 3-13, 2016.

Complete start list biathlon

In addition to the biathlon competitions, there are several cross-country races as well. The uphill time trial Lysebotn Opp features a grueling 7.5-kilometer course with a total of 640 meters elevation gain. Many of the biathletes also race in the uphill time trial, adding depth to the already impressive field of XC skiers.

Also, there are two other XC races at the Blink Festival: a mass start distance race for the cross-country skiers, featuring 10km skate for women and 15km skate for men on July 31, as well as sprint races in Sandnes city center on August 1. Madshus racers Heidi Weng (NOR), Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg (NOR), Krista Parmakoski (FIN), Barbro Kvaale (NOR) and Oeystein Pettersen (NOR) are among the favorites on the start lists.

Complete start list XC

More about the 2015 Blink Summer Ski Festival 

Lysebotn Opp race course. Photo: NSF

Lysebotn Opp race course. Photo: NSF

Team Madshus: Amazing opportunity

Norwegian skiers Ingeranne Strøm Nakstad and Morten Teksnes were both named to the new elite development project Team Madshus Norway for the upcoming season. The young skiers told Langrenn.com during the season kick-off that they are grateful for the opportunity to pursue their dreams and careers with the support of Madshus.

The last weekend in September marked the official kickoff for the team, with project mentors Thomas Alsgaard, Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, Ingvild Flugstad Østberg and Kristin Størmer Steira on site to disperse nuggets of their experiences from the World Cup circuit.

“It was really interesting to hear Thomas and Ole Einar talk about their road to the top,” Nakstad said to Norwegian web site Langrenn.com. “But it was also really fun to do an overdistance running workout with Ingvild and Kristin,” she added.

Nakstad is excited about Team Madshus Norway and explains that it makes a huge difference in her ability to chase her dream of one day being the best in the world. “It is really great. I get a few good pairs of skis, lots of guidance and support. And having Ingvild as my personal mentor is hugely motivating. What she has accomplished as a junior is amazing,” the 17-year-old said to Langrenn.com.

For Morten Teksnes, the best part of the team kickoff in September was the long roller ski workout with Thomas Alsgaard.

“It was really fun to rollerski with Thomas Alsgaard. We did an easy distance skate workout with some speed surges toward the end,” Teksnes recalled, adding that Alsgaard also shared some technique pointers.

And Teksnes too is excited and motivated by the resources and support the project is putting into the next generation of elite skiers. “It is definitely motivating to be a part of the team. I get the best skis and equipment, and it is really cool that Madshus is backing us up so well. That is huge,” Teksnes said to Langrenn.com.

But the feelings go both ways. Team Madshus Norway coordinator Stian Grønås is impressed with the quality and attitudes of the 38 racers on the team. 34 of them made it to the team kick-off at Natrudstilen last month. He said the camp was a success, and that Team Madshus Norway is a win-win deal for both parts. For Madshus, one intention of the project is to establish brand loyalty with the young elite racers on the team. By sponsoring and supporting the young racers, Madshus hopes to win their loyalty and keep them in the family as they climb the ranks and throughout their careers. Thomas Alsgaard is a prime example:

“Thomas was something like 14 years old when he signed his first contract with Madshus, and he is still on Madshus skis,” Grønås pointed out to Langrenn.com.

 

Dreading to bungee jump

“I’m going to bungee jump this summer, and I have no idea why I agreed to do that, because I’m way too scared,” says Ingvild Flugstad Østberg of the Norwegian national cross-country team.

The Madshus racer promised a friend they would go do the bungee jump together this summer as a Christmas present, when summer seemed comfortably far away.

“But hopefully, it’ll be a little fun too. And I’d totally regret it if I chickened out,” she adds with a laugh.

Aside from the bungee jump trip, Østberg doesn’t have a lot of plans for the summer besides training on her own. There are no national team camps in July, so she will take the opportunity to be at home.

“I travel so much during the season,” she says. Østberg estimates she easily puts in 80 hours of training per month in June, July and August.

Overall, Østberg is pleased with her season.

“Of course, there were some ups and downs. But during Tour de Ski I had my first top-10 World Cup finish, and I was 14th overall. And then I was third in the sprint at nationals, behind Marit Bjørgen and Maiken Caspersen Falla. And I won the pursuit at the U23 Worlds,” Østberg says.

“There were some races that didn’t go so well, but this was my first season at the senior level, and you can’t expect to rule the course all the time. The margins are so small when you are competing with the best, and you can’t just play it safe and still expect to place well, like you can get away with sometimes at the junior level. I ski faster this year than I did last year, and that was my goal,” Østberg says.

Long term, Østberg has a lot of goals and ambition, but she realizes that she has to be patient.

“Sometime in the future I want to be the best in the world. But there is a long road ahead, there are no shortcuts, and I have to be patient. I see that Marit Bjørgen is at her peak right now, and she’s 10 years older than me,” Østberg says, noting that she’ll go after it step by step.

School: To study or not to study?

This spring, Østberg finished her Associates Degree in business at Gjøvik. She has gone to school part time for the past two years, and by the end of the summer she has to decide whether to stay in school and work toward a Bachelor Degree or take a season off. It’s a hard choice, she says.

“Right now I have to opportunity to see what it’s like to take a season off from school. You have to take some chances if you want to get better. I can always go back to school,” Østberg says. She explains that so often, girls want to do everything out of duty, and that sometimes she really likes having school, but there are definitely times when she wished she didn’t have to worry about it.

But right now, it’s summer, and she plans to enjoy it.

“I like relaxing in the sun and reading a book. I like hanging out with friends and not stress about anything. But I need variety, and sometimes I really want to do something too,” Østberg says.

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